RANTINGS OF A MAD WITCH: The Great Divide

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“The human body resonates at the same frequency as Mother Earth. So instead of only focusing on trying to save the earth, which operates in congruence to our vibrations, I think it is more important to be one with each other. If you really want to remedy the earth, we have to mend mankind. And to unite mankind, we heal the Earth. That is the only way. Mother Earth will exist with or without us. Yet if she is sick, it is because mankind is sick and separated. And if our vibrations are bad, she reacts to it, as do all living creatures.”

Suzy Kassem

I don’t identify as Pagan so writing a post that has been inspired by Pagan community issues is ironic, and that point is not missed by me.

As the world spirals out of control due to Government policies not in alignment with or appropriate for modern, progressive times, among other things, our system becomes further and further unbalanced with an “us vs. them” dichotomy.

This divisive narrative has bled into all areas of life.

And, yes, that includes Magick.

I always looked to the Witch community for inspiration.

For hope.

I sought out my Brothers and Sisters in Magick when the world got me down; it was my escape.

And, as socially and politically aware as I am, perhaps that escape became blinders.

Note: For clarification, I use the term Witch broadly in the context of this piece, and in general; I don’t use the term Pagan broadly (even though many people do) and I’m aware that by definition my practices are Pagan. We will unpack that mess another day. I also know that some Practitioners of African Diasporic Traditions, for example, do not identify as Witches, or practice Witchcraft. They are still and always included.

Carrying on…

Over the last several months I have noticed how deeply divided we are within the Witch community, and I must admit, it was surprising to me.

I know that many of my readers will say they are not shocked at my epiphany as they have experienced division, elitism and, often, racism first hand, but I thought we were better than this.

It’s important to point out that I stick to myself in pretty much every way possible; I have never been part of a Coven, or organization. I am not initiated into anything, and don’t believe someone must be in order to be taken seriously. On a mundane level, I’m a loner with a tight inner circle and extremely close familial connections.

I am a seeker and follower of the Old Ways, my path is my own and my research is endless, vast and deep.

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I consider myself to be super introverted, and us introverts know the one thing we do better than hiding is observing.

I notice everything, so how the divide in the Witch community was missed by me is something I must reflect on myself; no outside opinions necessary, or welcome.

It all started slowly, too–the realization, I mean.

First it was certain groups using Norse symbolism and Asatru teachings taken out of context to promote (white) nationalism, and racism.

Then it was white Witches excluding WOC (Witches of Color) from Witch spaces, or worse, talking for them instead of allowing them to speak for themselves.

Then it was white washing deities and/or using them out of context (ie. etymology of words/names and traditional lore must be considered); a blonde Kali threw me over the edge.

I have watched Witches’ pounce one another for “pulling the race card” simply because they wanted to have a conversation, an honest and open dialogue about what it means to live with brown skin in this world, in these times AND be a practicing Witch (again, all inclusive term).

Intersectionality is important—it’s the keystone of progress.

I have watched as Witches called out sexual abuse in the Pagan community only to be attacked in every way possible for daring to have a voice.

I have watched Witches improperly lash out because they are too scared to face their own traumas; Shadow Work is essential no matter what path you walk.

I have watched people use mental illness as an insult, or suggestion that someone’s behavior is because they are mentally unfit; this is dangerous for so many reasons.

I have watched people gather like a group of ‘Mean Girls’ and judge the witchiness of another to somehow validate or invalidate their practices and experiences.

I have watched Indigenous traditions stolen and exploited over and over and over again.

It goes far beyond the use (and misuse) of Sage, too.

I have watched as people were told they couldn’t practice a tradition because they are not the proper ethnicity.

And, trust me, I speak up, I speak up all the fucking time and I am shut down or attacked as people project onto me.

I have witnessed white folx being told they can’t practice Hoodoo, Haitian Vodou, New Orleans Voodoo or any African Diasporic Tradition in general because they don’t have African Ancestry.

The folx (gatekeepers) telling them this are the same folx who say that all people come from Africa (which they do).

Here’s a link for your reading pleasure, and my sanity.

You can’t have it both ways though.

We are either an inclusive community or we are not.

YES, black Witches, and black people in general, deserve to have spaces for themselves where they are represented authentically and unapologetically, by themselves.

And, YES, there are many traditions that ARE NOT up for the taking by outsiders because they are rooted in culture as well as practice and tradition (ie. being immersed in it day to day with your physical presence and time).

I DO NOT believe that as a white person everything is available/accessible to me, but when it comes to Spirituality, Spiritual practices and what resonates with the Soul, the lines get blurred really fucking quick, and it’s important for ALL parties involved to acknowledge this.

Respect for the path we walk, and education for the tradition we follow is key, in my opinion.

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I have watched white Witches tell black Witches they cannot venerate Norse or Celtic deities, or any Anglo-saxon group because they themselves are not white; that they will not be accepted because they are black.

I have only met a handful of Spirits who gave any flying fucks about race; generally, they just like to be honored, and most Practitioners, regardless of tradition, will agree with me on this.

It boils down to respect and education, as aforementioned, but also intent.

Another point, colonialism and how it continues to affect this country, and the world is a tricky, tricky subject and one of great complexity.

This of course affects our community.

Racism, sexism and sexual abuse in the Witch community are topics that must be addressed, and folx it’s going to suck for all parties involved.

White privilege is real. White supremacy is real. The patriarchy is real. Racism is real. Sexual abuse disguised as enlightenment or ritual is real.

We as a community cannot expect change on a grand, global scale, like so many of us truly want, if we are unable to see the issues among ourselves.

We cannot resist the system that wants to obliterate our existence if we aren’t even strong enough or brave enough to have the difficult conversations.

Yes, some white feelings are going to get hurt in the process, but imagine the generational trauma that POC must work through?

And, no folx this is NOT SAYING that white people don’t have generational trauma themselves.

Comparing the two is a false equivalency (another reason Intersectionality is paramount).

Our community is better than the actions of a few and I know that, but what I brought up here has moved far beyond just a few people.

How can Witches be a force of resistance, a force in the resistance if we can’t unify on the most basic shit?

How?

WITCH OF THE WEEK: Aidan Wachter

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This week’s Witch of the Week is an amazing talent and someone I’ve grown to call a friend.

He is as down to Earth as they come, with a deep, primal knowledge of the Craft.

Aidan Wachter is a sorcerer with either 35 or 40 years of experience, depending on how you measure it! His background is wide-ranging, with influences from Wicca, Austin Osman Spare, chaos magic, traditional witchcraft, Huna, and many more.

He is a talismanic jeweler, a musician, and author of the book Six Ways: Approaches and Entries for Practical Magic.

For reviews of this life-changing book, check them out here

Aidan’s Blog:

http://www.aidanwachter.com/new-blog/

Aidan’s Talismans:

http://www.aidanwachter.com/product/

The Talisman that transformed my life:

http://www.aidanwachter.com/product/descent

Aidan’s Business Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/tveirhrafnar/

Aidan’s Instagram:

https://www.instagram.com/aidan.wachter/ 

Now onto the questions that I have been aching to ask this brilliant Sorcerer.

Q. Your first book, Six Ways: Approaches & Entries to Practical Magick, has debuted at number one on Amazon, and has remained in the top three slots since it was published. Congratulations! What is it about this book, in your opinion, that you believe resonates so deeply with people? What do you think this book has that others on the market do not?  As someone who has read it, twice, I can say that for me it’s not only your practical applications, but it’s how you write about the Craft; it’s clear that it’s truly one of your passions. And, nothing makes me want to immerse myself into something more than feeling how much another loves and respects it; in this case, your book. 

A. “Well now it’s been up & down quite a bit, but it stayed in the three’s for far longer than I ever expected, which was fun! I think that mainly it is really, really honest. As you know, I work with a pretty vocal set of allies, and I place the book firmly in their court. And they were very insistent that it be about what I do & why (as well as why I have come to believe it works, which is a separate why!) and called bullshit on anything that didn’t meet that criteria. So I think what a lot of people are seeing is an approach to practice/life/magic/path that is perhaps less idealized and removed than the usual. Since I am not actually trying to get anyone to practice as I do (which is likely impossible, anyway) I think it has opened the door for some people to be more comfortable with their own inclinations and ways that don’t really fit the established molds. This is at least the main points I see reflected in the emails I have received about it! If it has something that other books do not, I’d say it is that it is very, very practical while being completely non-dogmatic and still has a coherent, cohesive worldview. So it really does show both the how and the why in a way I’ve found lacking in a lot of books of magic. Also, perhaps, is that if it has an agenda (and I can assure you it does!) that is to suggest going deeper rather than wide. We really only need a few methods of working that really solidly work for each of us, and we are golden, in my opinion.”

Q. You are most well-known for your Talismans, how long have you been a Silversmith, and what made you get into it? I own one of your pieces and it’s been life-changing (see link above) and has become a part of me; I literally only take it off to shower and I wouldn’t even do that if it wasn’t enchanted and blessed with oils on a weekly basis. For me, I treat my pendant very much like a living Magickal tool, is that how you intended them to be? Why is it important for your pieces to be created in a ritualistic setting, like you do in your shop? 

A. “I learned silversmithing from Mark Defrates, who was a fantastic jeweler, brilliant magical mind, and a wonderful friend who passed about two years ago. I just loved it from the get-go, and have only made a very few non-magical pieces in my life. To me, making them the ‘hard’ (read also ‘really slow, super fun way’!) way lets me really infuse them with the energies that this kind of tool calls for. I absolutely think of them as living things, and I often refer to them as creatures! They need feeding, attention, and mostly they wish to be used, to really be what they were intended to be, and in my experience, desire to be. The shop itself is highly awake, aware and active.  I do probably 90% of all of my magic in the 7×9 foot space where I build the pieces, so it’s an all-in deal. The magical nature of the space, of the ongoing offering & asking practices, and the work to bring in what each piece needs all combine in the work I do. No part is separate.”

Q. As a lifelong Practitioner, what is some advice you wish you were given when you first started out? What is some advice you would give to someone just starting out? 

A. “Oh, damn. For me starting out: Ignore those who demand complexity. Do what makes sense to you, how it makes sense to you. Understand that sorcery & magic are at the root of what makes us human. They are completely natural, if not currently normal. The magical worldview is not weird or odd except in comparison to the complete and utter clusterfuck that is the modern Western wasteland (it really doesn’t deserve the word ‘culture). So if it’s seen as weird, then that’s a blessing, a Great Good Thing, and should be always remembered and cherished as such. For the newcomer? All of the above same, plus: find one or two solid ways to do the things you need to do and hone your skill with them to a razor’s edge. This will take time, and how long it takes is in inverse proportion to how many directions or tools you choose to add to the kit. So pick one, or a few, tools and methods and go deep. Deep is where the power lies, in what you can actually do, not what you know on an intellectual level or how big your library is. Remember to use a material base for work you wish to have manifest in the physical!”

Q. I enjoy how your Craft is bare bones. And, what I mean by that is, your Craft is just that: yours. It’s very much what you have created it to be, and what works best for you; I have witnessed you create powerful grids of earth and bone to cast; negating all the frills and hoopla a lot of Witches and Occultists in this Instagram age put out there. Do you think at its core Magick is really simple in a sorta paradoxically complicated way? That all we truly need are our intentions, and what’s on hand? 

A. “For me, magic (and I’m largely interested in hands-on practical magic) is pretty simple (which gets the standard caveat ‘which does not mean easy’), in that it is basic, primal, foundational. And like most practices, getting really good at almost anything is getting really savagely good at the basics! I’ve always had a lot of spirit-contacts, and for me, that is the root. So if I tend to that (the relationships with the Others, spirits, and allies), almost everything else is a given. Is what I am doing is appropriate & suitable to my allies? If so, then all is well. If it’s not, bringing a lot of irrelevant logic, theory and artifice won’t make it so. I personally, being a spirit-worker, don’t think our intentions are always enough, though they can be in some cases. And they absolutely have to be in order to do good, consistent work.”

Q. As society divides more and more, and people seem to be pulling away from organized religion we are seeing a rise in numbers of Earth-based, and Pagan belief systems, why do you think that is? Is it simply people being tired of indoctrination and wanting to get back to their roots, or is it more complex than that? 

A. “I do think it is about getting back to the roots. We are seeing now how the modern world is breaking down our physical bodies with the rise of auto-immune diseases and their ilk, and I see the same types of breakdowns in the social structures we inhabit. All of what we think of as organized religion is an event of the VERY recent past if we take the long view of human history, which I do. Those religious structures are also breaking down or asking for increasingly unreasonable demands of people. Materialism is not a very fulfilling alternative to those kinds of religious structures for a lot of people. I believe people are looking backward, and asking ‘what was life/spirit/culture/magic like before it/we all got fed into the wood-chipper of industrial and post-industrial materialism? Is there something in there that can help to make this place more bearable, that can maybe serve as a thread to guide us to something better than what we have been sold as possible?’. In this way, I see magic, paganism, herbalism, permaculture, animism, et al as a continuum of ways & means to create a more meaningful life and hopefully, stave off (and possibly heal) some of the destruction that is happening on all levels, from disease to species extinction to fascism. To me, it’s about looking fully beyond the control games of those who seem quite happy to burn this whole place down to line their pockets and choosing instead a radically different path, one that suggests that it is possible to live lives of connection and meaning beyond the ability to earn a buck or climb the social ladder.” 

Aidan has fed and fueled my Muse more times than I can count; whether through his view of the Craft, ritual tips, his genuine kindness or simply sharing photos of his farm and the amazing animals and creatures (of all varieties) that share his space, he motivates me to be a better Practitioner, but also a better human.

For these reasons, and so many more he has been chosen as The Nephilim Rising’s Witch of the Week.

Congratulations, Aidan.

WITCH OF THE WEEK: Laura Tempest Zakroff

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This week’s Witch of the Week is a friend, colleague, Artist (of many mediums) and fierce Witch. I have been a fan of hers for quite some time, so to be able to pick her brain and present this interview to my readership is surreal.

Laura Tempest Zakroff is a professional artist, author, dancer, designer, teacher, and Witch. She holds a BFA from RISD (The Rhode Island School of Design) and her artwork has received awards and honors worldwide. Her work embodies myth and the esoteric through her drawings and paintings, jewelry, talismans, and other designs. She blogs for Patheos as A Modern Traditional Witch, Witches & Pagans as Fine Art Witchery, and contributes to The Witches’ Almanac, Ltd.

She has two books published by Llewellyn WorldwideThe Witch’s Cauldron: The Craft, Lore & Magick of Ritual Vessels and Sigil Witchery: A Witch’s Guide to Crafting Magick Symbols with two more on the way – The Witch’s Altar (co-authored with Jason Mankey – November 2018) and Weave The Liminal: Living Modern Traditional Witchcraft (January 2019).

You can catch her writing along side me on The House of Twigs as well.

Laura resides in Seattle, Washington, with her partner Nathaniel Johnstone and at least three cats.

Find out more at www.lauratempestzakroff.com

Q. You have this amazing ability to approach some of the most serious aspects of the Craft with humor and sarcasm, while remaining respectful. Why do you think it’s important for us as Witches and people to laugh at ourselves sometimes? I have seen people argue it takes away from the sanctity of the Craft, but I disagree and think it adds realness.

A. “There’s two ways of looking at this approach.  First, I believe there’s a big difference between taking the Craft seriously, and taking ourselves too seriously. Far too often, people over-focus on “what will other people think of us” versus being true to ourselves and our path. You can spend countless hours trying to make sure the exterior view is “just right” or you can get actual work done. People will believe what they want regardless of what you think you’re presenting or telling them. It’s just not real or effective to invest that much energy into a veneer, when your actions and who you really are will speak much deeper. Secondly, people are more apt to learn and absorb new material when play is involved. Play, humor, sarcasm – it can simultaneously stimulate the brain while aiding in helping people to relax. It makes the material accessible, understandable, and relate-able to more people. I’d rather seem more people learn to empower themselves properly then worrying about occult elitism and other snobbery.”

Q. Anyone who has watched you perform can see that movement if one of your many forms of Magick, and the oneness you have with your body and Spirit is visible to the audience. It’s otherworldly. Where do you find inspiration for your dance? What made you want to become a belly dancer in the first place? For me, the belly dancer is the embodiment of the Goddess, would you agree?

A. “Mythology, artwork, music, spellcraft – I find my inspiration anywhere and everywhere.  When I perform with The Mechanist & The Star Goddess, Davis and Nathaniel are creating music on the spot and I’m responding to them – and in turn they respond to me.  We’re also influenced by the venue, the people who have gathered there, the vibe of the day, etc.

“I got into bellydance because my best friend at the time introduced me to things she was seeing in the Bay Area of California – so I went looking for what I could find similarly in Rhode Island (where I was living then.) Everyone in our tradition signed up for classes as well, because it felt like such a natural thing to include into ritual.  I wouldn’t say the belly dancer is the embodiment of the Goddess – I’ve done too many genderfluid performances and know many other performers who identify outside of the gender binary. Plus there’s a lot of fakelore about the history of the dance that makes it seem very narrowly Goddess-centric, when it’s a dance that’s done culturally by a wide variety of ages, genders, and faiths. I WILL say that learning to incorporate movement into ritual is an incredible way to access the Divine in multiple forms – not only exterior deities and spirits, but to connect with your own spiritual essence.”

Q. You are known for your Sigil Crafting skills, and making the Craftform accessible to everyone; what is it about Sigil Witchcraft do you enjoy the most? Why do you believe people are drawn to this form of the Craft? Especially since for many years people I ran into were completely turned off by Sigils; only associating them with Chaos Magickians.

A. “For me, art is my primary form of expression AND method of spellcraft. I love opening people’s minds to doing it for themselves. The ability of human beings to be able to mentally associate an abstract concept with a drawn mark is ancient – it’s one of the critical thought processes that sets us aside as a species. For thousands of years, humanity has employed the use of art and symbols to work magic and affect the metaphysical – it’s definitely not something that was invented by a white dude last century or a secret ensconced in 15th century European grimoires.  There are MANY methods – mine pulls from those ancient roots, yet bypasses other approaches to deliver a vision that people feel more connected with. Everyone has their own personal library of symbols and things that have meaning for them. If you work from what you’re familiar with, while expanding your horizons, it can have a profound and powerful effect on your magick. My method strengthens the ability of the right brain to visualize, which I think people find very familiar and inspiring.”

Q. What is one piece of Witchy advice you were given that you have never forgotten? 

A. “Oh so many good things, but I think my favorite actually came in reference to dance: “There’s something you can learn from every dancer.  Sometimes that’s what TO DO, and sometimes it’s what NOT to do.” Definitely applicable to witchcraft!

Q. What is one piece of advice you would give to anyone newer to the Craft?

A. Power comes from within, it already resides within you. All you have to do is learn to trust yourself – which sounds simple and easy, but it’s definitely the hardest thing for most people to learn.

Laura is on a mission, or several missions I should say.

She paints the world (quite literally) with her beautiful colors of dance, Witchcraft and Artwork; she gives her readers real advice that can be applied to their Craft and lives.

She is a force comprised of rebellion, resistance and an Ancient energy you have to feel to believe.

A Woman like her has earned the name Tempest; not only that, she embodies the storm.

It is for these reasons and so many more that she has been named The Nephilim Rising’s Witch of the Week.

Congratulations, Laura.

A reference list of all her past and current projects, along with sites (you can also find links above):

Blogs:
A Modern Traditional Witch (Patheos Blog) – http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tempest/
Fine Art Witchery (Witches & Pagans) – http://witchesandpagans.com/pagan-paths-blogs/fine-art-witchery/

Books:
The Witch’s Cauldron: The Craft, Lore and Magick of Ritual Vessels (Llewellyn, 2017)
Sigil Witchery: A Witch’s Guide to Crafting Magick Symbols (Llewellyn, 2018)
The Witch’s Altar: The Craft, Lore and Magick of Sacred Space (co-authored with Jason Mankey, Llewellyn, November 2018)
Weave The Liminal: Living Modern Traditional Witchcraft (Llewellyn, January 2019)
Contributor to Llewellyn Annuals (Magical Almanac, Witches’ Companion, etc)
Contributor to The Witches’ Almanac, Ltd
Illustrator for Witches & Pagans, SageWoman

Websites:
Art – www.owlkeyme.com
Author – www.lauratempestzakroff.com
Dance – www.darklydramatic.com
Design – www.magodjinn.com 

Projects:
The Mechanist & The Star Goddess  – https://www.facebook.com/TheMechanistandTheStarGoddess
We Are Aradia – https://www.facebook.com/WeAreAradia/www.wearearadia.org (under construction)