Saturday, June 17, 2006

Wiccan Practices In Witchcraft Today

Chapter 4 in the Gardner’s Witchcraft Today talks about the practices of a Witch. Here are some of the ones mentioned:

1. A circle to keep energy in
2. The practice of silence and secrecy
3. Family groups as covens
4. Held rites indoors
5. The keeping of a book of traditions
6. The great sabbats

I am not going to go over each point individually like I did with the beliefs because the reasons for the different practices seem to be all intertwined. For example, Gardner implies that the reason for the practice of silence, family groups as covens and indoor rites were a direct result from persecution of Witches. Within his discussion of the great sabbats, where “a thousand or more” people attended, he mentions that the members had to find a new way to raise energy. He believes that the use of circles to keep energy in (Gardner uses the word power) was a local invention in Europe (p 48) due to the lack of participants as the persecution progressed.

One thing that I find interesting is that he states clearly that “a witch can and does move freely in and out of the circle when she wishes” (p. 47). No mention of “cutting a door” in the circle (as it is called) and nothing about having to recast the circle after reentry.

I personally never understood the “cutting the door” thing. Here’s the reason why. The person or people in the circle are said to have control over how the energy is raised and the purpose it will go to. If they are able to do that, then logically (to me anyway) they should be able to get the energy to “stay” in the circle for the brief time that they leave it. Bluemilk also made a good point in a discussion a couple of weeks ago when she said “One of the first rules of physics is; energy cannot be created nor destroyed; only changed. That's why I don't create superstitious boundaries in my spiritual practice…..” I think that this quote says it all.

Although Gardner doesn’t use the term “Book of Shadows” he does mention that Witches are to keep a book of their traditions and rites. He doesn’t mention what is supposed to be in this book. However, there seems to be one problem with this – most people were not literate in those day. Those that were literate were the nobles, the clergy and the merchants. Although it could be possible that what Gardner claims is true, I would believe it to be unlikely depending on whom he though was involved in the religion.


Cosette said...

In Witchcraft Today, Gardner plays the part of a sort of disinterested anthropologist who has been lucky enough to discover the survival of "the witch cult" as a secret and initiatory system of pagan religion. You've already noticed that he's scant on the details of what actually goes on. For those, you need to look at another of his books, High Magic's Aid, which is really boring by the way.

As for the Book of Shadows, Doreen Valiente said that Gardner borrowed the term from an article in an occult publication about an ancient Sanskrit manual. The closest thing to a historical, European BoS would probably be a grimoire, but those only go back to the late-medieval period and the 18th century.

Rubicon said...

ahh yes sojourner-san. I agree with your thoughts on cutting the circle. Energy is everything; even matter is energy so moving away from the circle doesn't dissipitate(sp?) energy. Why? Because a person can do magic in a circle, lets say, they are preparing a house clearing ritual. The person can start the ritual in the circle then move about the house to perform the intented ritual. If the "cutting the door" belief is true, that would mean that leaving the circle is ineffectual because the "charged energy" would stay there. Then what would be the point of finishing the ritual outside the circle?

My belief is that our intent and our will controls the outcome of a ritual despite the location or whether or not we move past the circle. Circles are great though because they allows us a sense of security and create boundaries which gives us peace of mind and a space "to be".

Cosette said...

I'm not sure I agree entirely on the matter of cutting the door. In my experience, it doesn't really matter in certain situations. The house clearing (which I wouldn't call a ritual) that Bluemilk gives is a good example. But I think it's a different matter when you have a large group building a cone of power that is to be directed at a very specific goal.

Sojourner said...

Cosette - Thanks for letting me know about High Magic's Aid. I had heard about the book before, but didn't intend to read it. I may just do that now.

bluemilk - I would add that a sacred space also changes how you see things in that moment. It is all about being in a state of consciousness where you are in the moment and highly aware of what is going on around you.