Proving Grounds

October 1st, 2011

Faith and Witchcraft

Faith can be held in a lot of things: that the Sun will rise in the east, that Tuesday follows Monday, that your car will run well enough to take you to work tomorrow. A witch may well believe in any or all of these things, but faith does not enter into her or his relationship with the Divine.

Why? Because through meditation, guided visualization, group or solo astral travel, a witch has direct personal experience of Divinity1.

Experience may have shown this witch that the Element Fire has more to do with a person’s sense of humor than the Element Air, that a seedhead of grass is a perfect expression of the endless and loving abundance of the Goddess (a lesson which may have been taught in the Eleusinian mysteries), that an extremely troubled relationship to the witch’s own father does not preclude having a loving relationship to the God.

Believing” in the Empedoclean elements – earth, water, fire, air – has a quite different effect on the psyche than experiencing them for yourself. To have fields of ripe wheat appear in your mind’s eye, waving and rippling in the wind, will forever link “Air” and “movement” for you.

Journeying to experience the deities linked to your favorite pastime can teach you volumes about yourself. Many dedicated hobbyists start with Hephaestus, whose careful attention to detail is a function of His love for what he does.

Feeding the Runes your own blood, listening hard as They begin to talk to you by saying Their names, etches them into your soul in a way that memorizing multiple meanings for each Rune cannot.

What you know, you cannot believe in. As Terry Pratchett puts it, “It would be like believing in the postman.”2

Therefore, if I had any advice for a witch who has newly discovered that that’s what s/he is, it would be to get down in the trenches and take the journeys, walk the paths, meditate. Witness the turning of the Wheel of the Year, the passage of Life through the generations, sunrise, sunset, the first sight of the New Moon through a smoky summer haze, the glorious orb of the Full Moon through winter-bared trees, any birth, the rising of bread, the fermentation of wine.

Be surprised by nothing, and awed by all of it.

Every single one of these is a miracle, a signal of the Divine Presence in our lives.

Our ability to witness these miracles for what they are is what sets us apart from the believers, who are often called the “faithful” – those full of faith. In many faith-based religions, the ability to interact directly with the Divine is parceled into the hands of the priests, and kept from the faithful, who must rely on their faith that the Divine exists, and that their priests are cultivating right relationship with that Divine.

The witch has no such distance between Self and Divine. We are out there, talking to and serving our Gods, on a daily basis. It is this that marks out the true witch.

We don’t have to believe. We know.

Witches don’t need faith. We have experience.

So don’t bother to believe. Don’t bother to have faith. Instead, experience your connection to the Divine, and see where that takes you.

The trip will be wonderful, even if the destination surprises you.

1 I do not mean the fudge, even though fourteen out of every ten people like chocolate.

2 Terry Pratchett’s “Discworld” series provides a wonderful picture of witchcraft in “Wyrd Sisters” and “Witches Abroad.” I don’t know if he is one of us, but if not, he’s done some very critical thinking about what it took to be a practicing witch in the pre-industrial world, and written about it very well. I also recommend his “Tiffany Aching” series (“The Wee Free Men,” “A Hatful of Sky,” “Wintersmith,” and “I Shall Wear Midnight”) for young adults … no matter how “adult” you might be.

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