You would be forgiven for thinking that a large part of being a witch is spellwork. I know several people who do not do spellwork, at all, ever. I have been privy to some forum discussions where spellwork is discouraged as vehemently as masturbation by a Catholic priest. Admittedly, sexuality in any form is not a known focus of Catholicism, but spellwork is popularly believed to be a crucial focus of what it is to be a witch. I wonder if this antagonism towards spell-workers is in part a back-lash against anything that would endanger the earthy, reasonable image that some witches wish to present. I won’t go into the old argument of ‘Is witchcraft a religion or a craft of skills’ here. Take it as read that in this context I and many others view witchcraft as a religion: a way of marking the passing of the year, or linking into the creative spirit of elements and of communing with our gods – it is a way of living.
It is not irony that has so many witches (part of a fringe minority in society) trying so hard to be accepted, respectable good witches of the community – I suppose along the lines of the “village wise woman” – no, not irony but human nature. My Jewish background is not unique in giving me a feeling that it is safer belonging to the majority, it is safer not to be too visible, too different, too provocative. I have no criticism of these sincere men and women who do honour to god and goddess in their own way; and certainly on forums where there is a high predominance of teenage members, it is wise not to be too flippant about spellwork without making them fully aware of the risks and hazards involved. However, I do question the outright disregard of spellwork and the “looking down their nose” disapproval of anyone who dares to be different and explore other aspects of spirituality. Now that IS ironic – who suddenly made you the inquisitor? Would it not be wiser to have a thorough debate on the ethics of spell-working instead? To engender debate not stamp it out? Somehow the idea that we don’t need spells because Goddess will provide is a little too akin to the Christian philosophy expressed in Matthew 6: “Look at the birds in the sky. They do not sow or reap or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them.” And Matthew 6:31-32 “So do not worry; do not say. ‘What are we to eat? What are we to drink? How are we to be clothed?’ It is the pagans who set their hearts on all these things.” (Yay for the pagans!) Hence any spellwork is doubting and testing the beneficence of god/goddess – “You must not put the Lord your God to the test.” (Matthew 6:7). I accept and respect many of the basic tenets of Judeo-Christian religions, but I do find it unpalatable when certain witches, who are often the first to accuse all priests of being paedophiles and to hark on about the (questionable number of) “nine million” witches persecuted and killed by Christians, that their very own outlook is so coloured by Christian morality. Not only that, but that their morality is the only right way and anyone else advocating a different path should be excommunicated from polite, witchy company. If you wish to hold this ethical stance, fine. But lay off the Christian-bashing or you may find you are beating your own head black and blue.
According to the Ancient Egyptians, Heka (magic, or magical power) was a gift from the deities; a tool to improve our lives and to protect us. Just as an engineer or surgeon undergoes intense training and thought before being let loose with the tools of his trade, so a witch must learn the tools of hers and give equal thought to the ethics of her work.
(More on the ethics of spells and guidelines for spellwork another day)
© starofseshat 2008