As part of our opinion piece series, I wanted to write about the buzzfeednews.com article: The Striking Portraits Show The Lives Of Witches In America Today.
This article is about a personal journey by photographer Frances. F. Denny, a part of her portrait series Major Arcana: Witches In America. The article talks of her trips around the USA photographing women who identify themselves as witches and the photographic portfolio is delightful.
The buzzfeed article begins with a quote which I both agree and disagree with at the same time:
“The beautiful thing about witchcraft is the malleable, individualized nature of it.”
Evidently, this is true, outside the wicca or traditional witch covens, how the individual witch relates to witchcraft ranges from a choice of lifestyle, to dancing with gods, goddesses, elementals and fallen angels in the great celebrations of the sun and the moon.
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An expression of witchcraft then fits beautifully with the theme of a Magic Self and Spirit, that of encouraging you to walk your unique personal and powerful path of magic and spirituality.
Witchcraft is often matri-centric, it celebrates both the goddess and the god in all of their presentations. For the modern witch, American or otherwise, it is a journey of myth and imagination, magic and tradition.
Due to the history of the patriarchal religions and their attempts to demonize and suppress any spiritual experiences outside of their own dogmas, The spiritual quest of the witch isn’t really about fixed belief systems, it’s more of a journey to find the goddess in the land and the seasons and the mythical poetry of Immanence.
“Green sap of Spring in the young wood a -stir.
Will celebrate the Mountain Mother,
And every song - bird shout awhile for her;
But I am gifted, even in November
Rawest of seasons, with so huge a sense
Of her nakedly worn magnificence
I forget cruelty and past betrayal, careless of where the next bright bolt may fall.”
The White Goddess: A Historical Grammar Of Poetic Myth.
Wicca and the Goddess Traditions
Wicca and the goddess traditions elevate the goddess over the god and see him as her lover, husband, and sacrificed king of the seasons. The masculine divinity creates the balance which is then expressed as the waxing and waning gods of light vying for the love of the goddess.
At the summer solstice the sun god reaches his zenith before he starts his descent to the underworld losing 2 1/2 minutes of light a day and the god of darkness becomes more and more empowered.
Witchcraft then is symbolic of our connection to the land and the seasons, our light and darkness are equally important and both are honored.
Witchcraft is the personal journey of the self and a connection to the planet and our inner worlds. It honors the logos (the masculine, the logic,) and the intuition,(the feminine, the imagination) it’s a way of opening up exactly who we are personally, emotionally and spiritually.
Frances. F.Denny, the photographer in the buzzfeed article, encountered her own journey with witchcraft by experiencing the feminine and masculine balance (within herself) through the stories of her ancestry.
A great grandmother, Mary Bliss Parsons, was an accused witch twenty years before the Salem trials and a great grandfather Samuel Sewall was one of the central judges in the same Salem Witchcraft trials. Symbolically two sides of herself brought into balance through time.
“All Saints revile her, and all sober men.
Ruled by the God Apollo’ golden mean.
In scorn of which I sailed to find her
In distant regions likeliest to hold her
Whom I desired above all things to know,
Sister of the mirage and echo.”
The White Goddess: A Historical Grammar Of Poetic Myth.
Earlier I stated that I both agree and disagree that witchcraft is malleable and individualized. As a Chaos Magician who walks my own unique and personal path of magic and spirituality, this is a necessary balance.
For all things are illusion and therefore permissible. I take freely from each spiritual or magical system, yet two things are true; all systems are dualistic, right/wrong, good/bad, real/unreal, witchcraft too. In order to experience that system to its zenith one must follow its rules before discarding the system for another unique experience.
So let us turn to disagree. Witchcraft follows the festivals of the sun (the sabbats) and the moon (esbats). These festivals are not malleable, their symbolism is rooted in history, the land, mythology and magic.
Lughnasadh: The Grieving And The Celebration
I came across this article barely a month after it was published and the day before the festival of Lughnasadh, the kind of synchronicity you come to expect on this path.
Lughnasadh is as old as the hills in England the land of my birth. When I trained as a pagan priest in the Goddess tradition of Avalon I wrote a song for ritual and invocation.
“In the name of the goddess
In the name of the harvest
As the bountiful Earth
In the Spirit of Lammas (Lughnasadh)
Madron, is the bountiful mother goddess who gives birth to all the crops, and Lady Ker, is an implied horned goddess, the feminine counterpart to the god of the land Cernunnos.
Lughnasadh is the first of the harvests, and is of corn. Lugh, was the god of the corn who was sacrificed so we all may live and hence he was honored and mourned equally.
At its heart witchcraft is the spiritual cycle of life and rebirth, the spiritual and magical journey of self and evolution mirrored by the land and the seasons as divinity.
According to Robert Graves, poet, historian and author in his book: The White Goddess: A Historical Grammar Of Poetic Myth, the old ‘wakes’ we’re the hiring fares of the English countryside which were thought to be originally held at Lammas (Lughnasadh) between the hay harvest and the corn harvest.
The ‘wakes’, although they bought the harvests of abundance, they were also about mourning the god, the dead king, Lughomass (the Anglo Saxon form of the word) was the mass in honor of the god Lugh (or Llew)...it was the ‘loaf mass’ due to the killing of the corn god through the process of harvesting.
Like all things in the spirituality of Immanence and witchcraft , destruction and creation, light and dark, life (sex) and death are balanced and make up the whole.
As Frances. F. Denny states in the buzzfeed article: “My imagination ignited from there, and I began my inquiry into the archetype of the witch.”
The archetype of the witch will change everything for you, bring balance and power, growth and realization, light and darkness. There’s an old goddess song that sums this up:
“She changes everything she touches, and everything she touches changes.”
If you choose to wear the mask of witchcraft on your unique and personal spiritual and magical journey prepare yourself for its power!
Blessings at Lughnasadh
“It was a virtue not to stay,
To go my headstrong and heroic way
seeking her out at the volcano’s head,
Among pack ice, or where the track had faded
Beyond the cavern of the seven sleepers:
Whose broad high brow was white as a leper’s,
whose eyes were blue, with rowan-berry lips,
with hair curled honey coloured to white hips.”
The White Goddess: A Historical Grammar Of Poetic Myth
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See other Articles in our Opinion Series:
Chaos Magic – Reflections On The Anatomy Of A Great Spell
Grey Magick: Pagan Types Of Magick
Wiccan Feminism, Witchcraft And Independent Spirituality
Candle Magick: A Critical Review
Hail to the Spirits of Hekate’s Garden
Druids And The Ogham Tree Alphabet
The Lives Of Witches: Lughnasadh The Grieving And Celebrations
Christianity and the Crone Goddess