The Shambling of Ghouls.
It's past the middle of the night, and the witching hour. So I'll continue writing about witches for a bit. What the hell, right? Just a few middle of the night comments to leave you, the readers of this blog, with.
The thing the seems to destroy the subject of witchcraft as it emerged in the 20th century, and how we see our past selves, is narrative. More specifically: false narratives. The mythological stories we hold up to the light, once revealed as false, have this tendency to be used to discredit the entire subject.
By their very nature, the 'witch' (however you wish to conceive of that word) is a night-flower or lunar creature. If magicians are forged in the clear light of day, then the witch enters their transmutations in the dead of night. Oh, the light of the sun enters the picture – do not get me wrong on that matter – but it is reflected by the moon. Everywhere the world is a thing of shadow and mystery, and even the historical records on the subject become confused mish-mashed rehashes of strangeness over a period of a thousand or more years.
So when you bring in the spotlight, when you shine it directly on the subject all the shadows and mysteries go fleeing to the realms where daylight has no sway and remain locked in hibernation. (Note the great big nod to Stephen Grasso's Skip Witches, Hop Toads in Abraxas #1.)
“Ah, Gerald Gardner? Didn't he lie about a Ph. D? Not to be trusted.”“Alex Sanders and his Grandmother? What a bucket full of LULZ.”“Robert Cochrane? Nice trick with that plate and playing that poor woman for a fool.”
If Ceremonial Magicians are all too keen to tone down the mercurial aspects of Mercury and Hermes, then witches by comparison are all too happy to adopt the Trickster's garb and go to town. Fuck them if they can't take a joke, right?
And if you just happen to run in the “Trickster gods are necessary” crowds then you will discover a great many men for whom trickery comes quite easily. Remember the first rule of sleight of hand? The big gesture conceals the smaller gesture.
“And with a wave of my hand, I shall pluck forth – a rabbit! No a goat! No a fox! No, a God! Right before your eyes, ladies and gentlemen! Truly, a sight to behold..! Please, feel free to fill up the donation box: I'll be here performing tricks from 12 AM to 1 AM!”
Our news media thrives on a similar method of diverting attention. One narrative of truth and a small lie and they can distort our view of what is quite simply. Why else would people be convinced that Obama is a Muslim who wasn't born in the United States and who is out to create the Communist utopia? Clearly, the guy is an imperialist with a Kill List, and an army of drones to boot. Isn't that just lovely? Warms the very cockles of my heart, I tell you.
But this isn't a political post. This a post about trickery and consequence. The truth is that the restless ghosts of the past don't stay put. They have this tendency to rise up, noisy little narratives that demand attention, and once the light is shed over the body of evidence they contain – things become... strange.
When I talk to Elders of various witchcraft traditions, they tend to say the same thing (with a few awesome exceptions). My generation has no interest in joining. Now that the mythos of the Witches' is long past, no one cares. If there wasn't a Ph. D. beside Gardner's name, or you can't accurately trace the familial lineage of Cochrane's witch-DNA, then it all goes up in the flames.
I think it's all bunk, of course. I meet younger folks all the time that don't know where to look, or upon finding a group decide that it's too fluffy or something for their tastes. Or they encounter the worst group ever and decide that all groups must be the same. It's disheartening to hear the same story, over and over. [Line deleted to avoid being somewhat incendiary during Merc. Retro.]
The fact of the matter is that we do have a history. A very cool history, worth learning. Where you have culture, eventually you shall have witches. And they're always up to something strange, or interesting. Shifting across the night landscape, taking in the sights, figuring out what came before and what period of time they've come to be attuned to. There isn't just one path, or one culture. There are many paths, and many cultures, and many timelines and narratives to digest and sort. A never-ending array of them. Just visit your local bookstore and the history section. Magick books, con-artists, bizarre mystics, and people caught in the crossfires of culture wars: poor bastards, clever bastards, and even a few non-bastards!
There is no need to make up figures about how many women died in the fires of the Inquisition, or pretend that a form of approaching the world with its roots in the depth of Indo-European spirituality (and all the sprawling cults to come later) is the “oldest religion” ever. Because what we have is already worth-while. What we have is worth keeping. All your ancestors, dead loves, and the Patron Saints of yester-year are waiting for you under the moonlight.
And respectively, so are the restless ghosts and half-truths and lies of the past. But those are teaching tools, instructive moments from a time when you had to make bold claims to get anyone to listen. What those that made the claims often failed to realize is that you don't need to lie. You don't need to pretend to be anything other than what you are, which is often enough. All you need is the capacity, advocated by Spare, to reach through this illusion of the ever-present and feel the point when things, places, and people connect.
And then you are there and so are they and the Sabbat, in all it's odd and strange glory, is on.
Embrace what you are. There will always be someone out there, aiming to mock it. But it doesn't really matter. If you need to learn more? That's possible. If you desire to join up? That may also be possible, depending on the group and you. If you feel like sticking to your lonesome? We wish you all the best in luck and capability.
The thing about embodying the trickster is that eventually you can't do it anymore. You die: your legacy, and its truths or untruths live on. And eventually someone will stumble upon those untruths and call you on it.
On that matter, I have one last thing to say. The other day I was talking about Materia Medica and quote, almost verbatim, Dr. Healy without giving the appropriate link. I realize that blogging is the lowest form of writing currently inhabiting the planet, and plagiarism is everywhere. But I would prefer not to do it, even if I wasn't doing it intentionally. Dr. Healy discusses previous medical practitioners and the ability of a doctor to diagnose and decide over treatment here. I apologize to anyone that marveled and thought I was a genius. Alas, such is not the case! His blog really is marvelous, and I read it fairly often, sometimes in huge spurts and some of what he's said sits in the background and comes out later. I'll need to make a note of that and try to avoid ever making the same mistake again.
Also, I'm not comparable to anyone referenced above. I haven't created or synthesized a tradition, or anything. I'm just a guy that spends his nights reading a lot of books. It keeps things simple, and clean, I guess. Who wants students, anyway? Not I.