The “Celtic witching” part of this post is just an update on my paganism. I mentioned awhile back that I didn’t want anything to do with “Celtic reconstructionists”, mostly because they make claims they cannot possibly back up – that they know what the Druids and other pagans in the Iron Age (when most were active) did ceremonially and so on.
They don’t know, because there is very little written record about this. Caesar wrote about the Celts, and he did know some of them, but when history is written by the dominant culture you are always going to lose a lot in translation.
There are some scholarly books on ancient Celts and their religion, written by people who made it their life’s work to look at sites and interpret etchings on rocks and so on.
None of the books were written by these so-called “Celtic reconstructionists” that you find on the internet. Not sure where they get their information but the other reason I object to them is they don’t like pagans who “make up” their own ceremonies.
My interest in Celtic paganism comes from my grandmother and mother, who both told me stories about Druids and other types of folks we were supposedly descended from in Ireland. All of that was oral tradition, as is common amongst folk like us.
And, since both my mother and grandmother were Christians, a lot of what I learned was not particularly flattering to Druids – but it was accurate, so it seems from the books I have been reading. Human sacrifice figured predominantly in their ceremonies, as did torture and tossing people and their possessions into the bogs.
There was another side to that oral tradition, though, and much of it was folk medicine. Trees and things that grow on and around trees were very important.
Aside #2: Where do you think the use of holly comes from? It wasn’t originally a Christian or secular Christmas thing.
There was also some information about scrying and “telling the future”, both of which my mother and grandmother could do. But this was all on the QT, as paganism back in the early 1960s was still not really talked about (despite the explosion in the use of tarot and Ouija boards and ESP and all that alternative stuff).
Ok so I am not going to take up Druid ways and start sacrificing people! But I do want to prepare a space in my apartment for an altar and ritual tools, and start doing ceremonial magick again.
Magick to pagans is like praying is to more conventional religions.
“Making up ceremonies” is very much an acceptable thing to do, as long as you don’t culturally appropriate from others. It’s done within the confines of what you know about your own tradition.
I stress that because, from Aleister Crowley to Gardnerian/Alexandrian practitioners to “plastic shamanism”, that’s all culturally appropriated from other traditions, and it makes a mockery of people who take their spirituality seriously.
The common argument is that all traditions should belong to everyone, and if someone is not harming anyone by using their traditions in their ceremonies, who does it hurt?
Well….for one thing, it hurts all those impressionable new-to-paganism people you try to con into taking classes and becoming “third-degree” (or whatever number) witches or Wiccans or whatever you choose to call yourselves.
Classes that cost money. Classes that place an artificial barrier between “those who know” and “those who must learn.”
It’s elitist nonsense, that has a high degree of abuse connected to it. Monetary, for sure, but also gives “leaders” way too much power over others. It’s cult-like, and it’s ridiculous because there’s no “right” traditional ways in neo-Paganism. That goes back to the lack of knowledge about what ancient spirituality was like – in so many cultures, there is just not enough information.
Added to that, sometimes there is sufficient knowledge (for example, we know a lot about Greek and Roman spirituality), but the person is too lazy to study it. It’s much easier to read a book that some “famous magician/founder of modern Wicca/blahblahblah” wrote than to find out for yourself.
The second objection I have is this disrespectful notion that (mostly white) people state about traditions being open to everyone, so it’s ok to take someone’s ceremonies (or what you think their ceremonies are) and incorporate that into your own tradition.
Hey, guess what? You don’t have the right to define and dictate what another cultural group’s ceremonies should be used for. You don’t have the right, for example, to conduct “sweats” or other Native ceremonies just because YOU feel “that knowledge belongs to everyone”.
At the very least, it trivializes what those ceremonies mean. At worst, it appropriates them to prop up some very ignorant peoples’ racist ideas about others.
So many neo-Pagans just don’t get it. And so many others use those arguments to make money, in some cases a lot of money, off people who don’t have any connection to their own cultures and traditions.
That’s not helping anyone. And it’s why you won’t find any books on “how to be a witch” or “how to do spells” or anything like that in my space. It’s completely unnecessary for people to have books like that.
The point is, if you want to do spellwork, the best way is to make your own.
Trappings of ceremony may or may not be helpful. For me, candles, incense, a wand, an altar, and other things help me concentrate. And I was raised in the “high church” of the Episcopalian tradition (it’s a long story for another time how the entire family converted en masse from the Catholic church), so I am used to ceremony, and I like it.
But I don’t use a book – unless it’s one of my own making – to follow some designated spell for whatever need I might have. After all, most of the books are things that modern folk made up, and who is to say they had any more authority than anyone else?
They didn’t. They just had better publicity, and were able to con others.
It’s not “dangerous” to do ceremonial magick, any more than it’s “dangerous” to pray.
What kind of gods/goddesses would they be if you had to protect yourself every time you wanted to speak with them? That’s utter nonsense.
I am thinking of “the magick circle” now, of course. That is a circle you “must” draw around yourself and your space before attempting a spell. Or suffer some dire consequence.
The idea is it protects you against any not-so-nice beings who might show up during your ceremony. But, when you think about it, that doesn’t make much sense.
It implies that the nature of magick is bad, somehow. That when you contact our deities, it’s dangerous, as opposed to contacting Jesus or the Virgin Mary.
Myself, I will draw a circle but its purpose is to signify the beginning, and the ending, to whatever ceremony I am conducting. I don’t feel a need to protect myself from my deities.
I don’t think that conducting a ceremony is any more likely to bring forth lower-level entities than praying is…and if the Christian “exorcists” and others (“demon-hunters”) are to be believed, there is evidence that praying just pisses them off more.
I think, in the case of magick (and not in the case of the material world), your fear and your anger can attract what I call lower-level entities.
I don’t know how that works, and I don’t know where they come from, I just have seen that with others and in one case had to banish something someone sent me because he was mad at me.
In that one case, I didn’t call anyone or read a book. I simply said, “Go away.”
And it did.
If I had wanted to make myself feel better, I could have sprinkled salt around the apartment or done some other ceremonial thing, but I didn’t feel the need to. That makes the entity a lot more important, when you do that.
And, although I don’t know what they are, I do know that they are, at most, annoying. That if you get scared or angry this somehow fuels their antics.
If you treat them like the most boring houseguests ever, they go away.
If you somehow manage to escalate whatever it’s doing, then you might have to address it more firmly – but the image of something invisible grabbing you and dragging you down the hall is only something that happens in the movies.
Aside #3: I do have an anecdote from my teenage years that involved a book, an entity, and an accidental attack on a Catholic friend of mine by “something”, but it’s a long story for another time. It had nothing to do with pagan deities and everything to do with Christian ones.
Ok, that’s part #2 done.
Regarding Ellen DeGeneres…I saw her accept a “People’s Choice Award”. and she mentioned that she felt she got the award for “just being kind”:
“I have to say, it’s a little strange to actually get an award for being nice and generous and kind which is what we’re all supposed to do with one another. That’s the point of being a human.” (“Watch Ellen DeGenerous Be Hilarious Yet Touching Accepting the People’s Choice Award for Favorite Humanitarian”, People online, Naja Rayne, 1/7/2016)
It is, indeed, Ellen, the point of being a human. And it’s why you are such a wonderful one.
Weird news for the week? This is weird and nauseating. Because it’s about PETA and their ever-increasing exploitation of animals:
“Judge: Monkey Cannot Own Selfie Photos Copyright”, Olga R. Rodriguez (AP), SFGate website, 1/9/2016.
The monkey can’t, because he’s not human. PETA got involved by suing the actual photographer – who is human – and tried to argue that they should administer the proceeds from the photos. In other words, they want the money.
They are truly disgusting.
Recommendations for the week: I watched “House of Cards” when I was on vacation, and, except for the fact that I wanted to shoot every character in the show, I think it’s pretty good. Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright are phenomenal. Available on Netflix.
Be good. Be kind, like Ellen is.