Witch, You Vex Me

Witch, You Vex Me February 8, 2021

I like most of the Witches I meet, whether in person or online. For the most part we are all just trying to do the best we can and muddle through things to the best of our abilities. Shocking some, I even believe that many of the people I absolutely disagree with the most have come to their conclusions from an honest place.

From “Chap Books of the 18th Century” by John Ashton

What follows are a few things that vex me in the Witchcraft world. They are small complaints, but can be symptomatic of larger problems in some cases. None of these things are world or life changing, and I realize how petty some of them sound. However, if we were to stop engaging in some of these behaviors I think our little community would be a stronger and more positive place.

The word vex means “feel annoyed, frustrated, or worried, especially with trivial matters” according to Google’s English Dictionary. I thought that definition definitely applies to what’s below in this article.

Witchcraft should be about pushing forward, and encouraging others to empower themselves. Instead of trying to tear others down, I’d rather see a focus on real social change and working magick!

Alternative Titles for this article:

Witchcraft Pet Peeves 2
Get Off My Lawn!
Be Wary of that Witch!
Problem Things Said by Witches

People Who Believe the Publishing World Stopped in 1990, or Earlier

Older books books are great, and Witches and Pagans have been putting out classics since 1970 (sorry, anything earlier than that probably isn’t worth your time). I think it’s important to pick up stuff like Paul Huson’s Mastering Witchcraft (1970) and Margot Adler’s Drawing Down the Moon. I’ve been quite uncomplimentary towards Scott Cunningham’s Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner (1989), but I still think it’s worth reading.

We are often shaped by what we read as young people and then discount any subsequent “beginner” texts. I know for me it’s hard to muster up a lot of enthusiasm for 101-type books, but once I’m done with them I’m generally glad I read them. My Craft is not stuck in 1997, and many of the things I believed twenty years ago are no longer valid to me. Witchcraft (and other Pagan-related paths) are journeys, you don’t just arrive at a final destination and camp out there for fifty years. No, you keep pushing your Craft forward.

So many books!! This is from the Atlantis Bookstore in London.

I think most people who recommend old books would be surprised by what’s actually in them! There’s an assumption that those books reflect the world we live in today and its values, they most often don’t. My own Wiccan path has changed and grown radically in the 25 years I have been practicing it. It’s gone from an “Old (Fertility) Religion” to an “Accepting, Contemporary Magickal Tradition.” We have a better understanding of where we came from than we did thirty years ago, and perhaps most importantly, we have a better understanding of where we should be going.

This caveat especially applies to people who say they “teach the Craft.” If their book list is stuck in 1991, many of their beliefs might be too. At the very least it feels like they might have given up on pushing their practice forward. Older materials are fine, and we should read them, but that shouldn’t be all we look at!

And beware of the person who is dismissive of entire publishing houses. Again, this is someone trapped in another time who has refused to come with us into the 2020’s. There’s great stuff everywhere when people are willing to look!

Witches Who Are Dismissive of Other Traditions

I’ll admit it, this was me once. Traditional Witches are mean to Wiccan Witches so I’m going to be an asshole right back! Besides Robert Cochrane was kind of a jerk. And then I started reading more about Traditional Witchcraft, and found that we share a whole lot of stuff.

It’s true that I’ll probably continually quibble with some Traditional Witches regarding matters of history, but their conception of the Horned God is closer to my own than what I generally read in most Wiccan-related books. Some of their ritual techniques are pretty boffo too, and when it’s appropriate, I use them in my own rituals. Doreen Valiente lived in two or more Witchcraft worlds, why can’t I?

“The Witches Sabbath” by Frans Francken II. From WikiMedia. I feel like Robert Cochrane would approve.

There’s magick in just about every tradition, which is why people practice a variety of things. If a tradition was completely lacking why would anyone participate in it? We pick what works best for us, there’s no reason to shit on anybody for that.

You don’t have to love every tradition either. Over the years I’ve made jokes about how much I adore Druids and how much I dislike most Druid ritual, but it’s all in good fun. I have to assume that those Druids like Wiccans too (they like me) they just don’t find that Wiccan ritual resonates with them. Freaking great! Certain traditions appeal more to certain people for a variety of reasons, respecting other ways of thinking doesn’t mean you need to practice them.

I’m an Elder!

“I’m an elder.”

“Uhmmm, if you have to tell me you are my elder, you are probably not my elder.”

Elder is a title earned and given, it’s not something one decides for themselves. Someone is an elder when a person calls them an elder, that’s it. Some of the best Witches I know have been practicing for two years, some of the worst are older than I am. Age doesn’t always equate wisdom.

Someone is an elder only when they are looked upon that way by others. Even if you are in my tradition and have been practicing longer than I’ve been alive, you may not be my elder. If you are an asshole, you’re an asshole. I’ll probably be nice to you, I’m nice to just about everyone, but age and degree don’t mean all that much to me, and shouldn’t to you either.

The people who yell the loudest “I’m an elder” are generally the ones I trust least as elders. If someone is an elder they’ll show me that by their actions, not by yelling the loudest in a crowded room, typing in all caps on Facebook, or identifying themselves as an elder.

This guy is certainly not an elder.

People Who Have No Idea What They Are Talking About

I’m going to say this again, the Witchcraft world is very small. If you are reading this blog you are probably only one or two people away from knowing me personally. (I’ve travelled enough that you have a friend who has met me, or at least a friend of a friend.) If someone has a question pertaining to our extended community it can probably be answered pretty quickly as long as someone is willing to put in the required four minutes of work.

I read a bizarre accusation involving my publisher the other day, an allegation that could have been cleared up in about 90 seconds. Instead inaccurate information was shared, and yeah it’s not a big deal in the larger scheme of things, but it’s just so unnecessary! I’m sure the person posting inaccurate information thought they were doing something good for the extended community, but all they succeeded in doing was muddying the waters.

It’s not cool to have conversations in 2021, I get that. Knee-jerk reactions are the currency of the day, and people share things often without really thinking (or fact checking), but I have to think we can do better. I hope we can do better.

The people who often talk about Wicca being cultural appropriation truly believe they are doing great work, but I hope they are taking the time to talk to actual Wiccans. Again, what Wicca was in 1982 is not really what it is today. Nothing lives in a vacuum, everything is influenced by what’s around it. Sometimes those influences are bad, but as we move forward in history I like to think we’ll pick up more positive ones.

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