Anatomy of a Witch

Anatomy of a Witch December 7, 2016

Welcome to the first part in a series of posts exploring the Witch, from a Modern Tradition perspective.  In the near future, I’ll be tackling some sticky yet interwoven topics that create and define the Witch – including solo vs. group work, examining religion and spirituality, commerce, morals and ethics, etc. 

Books can’t tell you everything you need to know about living as a Witch.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m a voracious reader, and always have been.  There’s plenty of great information out there worth reading – and there’s also the inverse as well.

Really, this post isn’t a commentary on book learning, not at all.  Rather it’s about looking at the Witch as practitioner versus participant.

Nor am I about throwing around and pinning down labels and playing semantics.  I’m talking about investigating the essence of a multi-faceted vocational path.  And understanding that that essence requires looking at the difference between being a practitioner and being a participant.

Collage by the author
Collage by the author

It’s definition time! (cue daunting music)
A practitioner is defined as “a person actively engaged in an art, discipline, or profession.”
A participant is defined as “a person who takes part in something.”

Looking at how the Neo-Paganism movement has interwoven with witchcraft over the last half of a century, you can see two kinds of paths emerging from it.  One path focuses on creating community through building or rebuilding a religion, making it participant-minded.  The other path focuses more on power over the self and learning a craft, making it practitioner-geared.  Sometimes the paths do overlay.  But it’s the latter path that builds my root definition of the Witch.

Metaphor time! (cue cheery music)
Imagine a decent-size boat that’s sea-worthy.  Everybody who gets on that boat may have similar belief systems and approaches to getting things done or maybe not.  They may know how to make the boat run or drive, or how to build the boat, or maybe they just love being on the boat, looking out on the water.  Maybe they fish and do other activities from the boat.  They all really like getting on this boat for their own reasons.

And then there’s a person we’ll call the captain for the sake of this metaphor.  The captain may care deeply for the other people who get on their boat, or at the bare minimum, just makes sure everyone gets where they need to go or do safely – regardless of who they are. The captain not only understands how the boat is made and how it functions, but the captain also understands how to read the water, the sky, the winds, and the sea-life.  The captain knows how to navigate and guide.  The captain knows their boat best and has an intimate relationship with it.

Can you guess who’s the Witch in that metaphor? And why?

The Witch isn’t in it halfway. It’s all or nothing.  The path permeates everything they do.  It’s not a once a month or once a week thing, something hauled out and dusted off, but rather it is a lens through which everything is viewed every day.  It defines how they interact with people, the world around them, and everything unseen as well. The Witch is the navigator of their own path and a guide for others.

And none of the above are things you can learn from any one book or series of the very best books or grimoires.  It comes with doing, with being, with trying, failing, observing, and learning – in real time and space, over an extended period of time, at your own pace.  A preset determination of guided years doesn’t guarantee that actual experience, nor can it properly dictate the pace at which YOU will move.  AND you may participate in the activities of others, get on other boats to see how things are done – but you always come back to your own boat, guiding your way through your own ocean.

If you call yourself a Witch, where do you fall and why? Are you forging a path or following it?

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