Our Witches’ Almanac* lives in the bathroom. This location is pretty much the only guarantee that I will look at it regularly, instead of losing it in my studio. (Seriously, in a former life, I misplaced past issues for nearly a year, so the bathroom placement is a revelation.)
I tend to check in with the monthly calendar, but I particularly revel in opening it to any page and see what comes up – and am nearly always finding new material within it, no matter how long I have had it. Usually it tends to be something very much appropriate for that moment as well.
And it so happened the other day I picked up the newest edition and started in on David Conway’s “The Old Religion.” Which to summarize, talks about the need/desire of esoteric organizations and spiritual traditions to espouse how old they are, how much they are connected to antiquity to prove the authenticity of their ways – and then points out how silly it all is. (Mind you, this is a brief summary in my own words – it’s quite an extensive long article for the WA!)
This sentiment created a big AH-HA! moment in my head for something I’ve been pondering for nearly two decades in many ways: in Witchcraft & Paganism, in Art, in Dance. What is authenticity? What does it mean to be authentic and why is it at the heart of so many arguments?
I think back to any number of the Traditional Witchcraft forums/groups/chats/discussion boards I used to frequent 15 years ago – and how often “my way/tradition is better/more correct than yours” would come up. Even as the truth about various hereditary stories being fantasy came to light, folks dug in deep. And there I was with my Modern Tradition oxymoron – “why yes, I’m both modern AND traditional, and no I don’t mean Wicca” – not really giving a damn about arguing better/worse/older/newer.
Every day we live, we are not only existing and working with tradition, but we are innovating and creating new traditions. To me, Witchcraft is about doing what needs to be done, with what you have available. There are time-honored things we do, not just because Grandmom did them, but because they WORK – and then there are the ways we find that work better. Whether the method is ancient or modern doesn’t make it any less effective, as long as it works.
That’s what authenticity is about – doing what works because it’s the best option available. It’s not about trying to forge a link to a distant or imagined past to justify your system. There’s a weight that comes with that facade that holds back growth and prevents finding truth. If you strive to maintain balance, to know yourself, and to take responsibility for your actions – it doesn’t matter how old or new the tradition is, who may approve or disapprove of it. That stuff really doesn’t matter in the big picture.
Instead, when you decide to be authentic to yourself, and truly live your own tradition, the Universe opens up in new ways – or old ones you may have not seen before. Knowledge is never truly lost, it can only be hidden for a time.
*the one published in RI – always has been my favorite – check it out at www.TheWitchesAlmanac.com