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A Magical Anthropology|
Traditional Witchcraft & the Pagan Revival
Author: Melusine Draco
Publisher: Moon Books
Category: Witchcraft, MB&S, occult Level: All
The Story Behind ...
Every book has a story behind the story of how it came to be written. It may be about a life-long passion, a personal journey, the need to share an experience or knowledge. It may have been fermenting in the brain for years, or sprung fully formed from a blinding epiphany. Whether it be fact or fiction, sometimes the story behind the story is almost as important as the published book itself …
Traditional Witchcraft and the Pagan Revival
The idea for Traditional Witchcraft and the Pagan Revival: A magical anthropology was originally sparked off by that old in-joke of the late Michael Howard’s concerning the ‘Celtic Potato Test’ in which he highlighted the number of pagan publications that repeated the myth that the one of the Celts’ sacred plants they brought to Britain was the potato! Over the years it became evident that these historical inaccuracies were permeating contemporary pagan publishing and perpetuating mis-information for the generations to come.
Witchcraft has a fascinating history but no-one can trace their antecedents back to the Stone Age, and at best what we have now is a watered-down version of primitive shamanism that is nevertheless often easily recognisable from ancient European cave paintings. Witchcraft and shamanism probably ran in tandem with the developing culture of these islands and would have reflected (but not controlled) the beliefs of the indigenous population. As anthropologist Francis Pryor explained in Britain BC:
It is my contention that the influences of British pre-Roman cultures are still of fundamental importance to modern British society … The six millennia of insular development gave British culture a unique identity and strength that was able to survive the tribulations posed by the Roman Conquest, and the folk movements of the post-Roman Migration Period, culminating in the Danish raids, the Danelaw and of course the Norman Conquest of 1066.
And it was his subsequent comment that according to his research, all the Romans can take credit for was wiping out a 10, 000-year old island culture quite unlike any other in the ancient world, which gave me food for thought. So … just as not all members of today’s Church are members of the priesthood, not all of the indigenous peoples were witches; and just because something is ancient doesn’t mean to say that it was viewed as ‘sacred’. And burial sites were not necessarily places of worship. Yes, there are many tenuous strands that reach back into the mists of time but more often than not if we give a good tug, the threads come away in our hand.
Magical ability itself is a very tenuous skill that needs to link to its own original roots to work successfully; we need to be able to tease the strands from the tangled skein of history to trace the power back to its source. So began a fascinating journey back into our pagan past to discover where the various different threads became woven into the magical chain. Yes, it took a long time to write but in the process it was possible to correct many of the misconceptions, dis-information and downright deliberate inaccuracies and restore some sort of form of magical chronology to the beliefs of our Craft forebears.
A magical anthropology - a historical fact-finding mission to discover when the different aspects of magical influence entered traditional witchcraft. Rather than a history of religions in Britain, this text is a magical anthropological study that demonstrates how various strands of esoteric practice have been handed down through the centuries. It draws on archaeological and anthropological sources rather than esoteric ones.
It was Andy Lloyd Book Reviews that first put the Traditional Witchcraft series into its proper perspective: “The ‘Traditional Witchcraft’ series provides varied information about what it means to be a practising witch in modern times. In places, it feels like a guide, or self-help book. But there is much more to it than that. What strikes me is the amount of science running through the book. To understand nature is to live as a part of nature, and ultimately to become one with its changing patterns and cycles, to synchronise one’s own psychic or magical energy with natural tidal forces and the elements. So a witch, like no other religious practitioner that I’m aware of, must study her environment carefully, and attune her life to it … The learning is multi-disciplinary, and feels almost as if one was studying a textbook written by a poet … it has that sense of quiet wonder about it, supported by education, knowledge and, above all, wisdom.”
In fact, the whole series was structured along the lines of a distance learning course, so that any would-be traditional witch had a step by step guide to follow. Traditional Witchcraft for Urban Living (originally published as Mean Streets Witchcraft) is the first in the series and as the title suggests, aimed at the majority of pagans who live in an urban environment rather than insisting that a witch must live in the country before they can learn about traditional British Old Craft. The second step is revealed in Traditional Witchcraft for the Seashore that teaches us how to understand and work with those natural tides within our own environment, even if we don’t live by the sea. Step three, Traditional Witchcraft for Fields and Hedgerows, covers what most of us would think of in terms of traditional Craft, and brings us back into the comfort zone where we feel safe and secure – before step four casts us back out into the more hostile world of Traditional Witchcraft for the Woods and Forests: the magical energies differing quite considerably between these four environments.
The historical view of Traditional Witchcraft and the Pagan Revival was left until step five, because it’s not until we’ve been studying traditional Craft for a while that we start to notice both the differences and the similarities between the various disciplines. We want to know where our own beliefs come from; to trace these antecedents; and to understand why some of our ways are often diametrically opposed to those of other traditions we read about - and why. That is the reason for the fifth book in the series being written as a magical anthropology; simply to make sense of some of the things we’ve never recognised before.
Not that the books have always been favourably received. Some reviewers claim there is nothing new contained within them, or that there are no great revelations in the text, ignoring the fact that Craft learning is about forty per cent information and sixty per cent intuition; but it’s also about realising when intuition is telling us that we don’t have all the information. There are books claiming to reveal the ‘secrets’ of traditional Craft - but intuition should tell us that if the secrets can be revealed in the reading of one book, then the author can’t have that much to tell. The real secret is that there are no secrets, only a system of revelation that eventually leads us to a series of guides or teachers, to further our progress along the Path to the Mysteries.
“The ‘Traditional Witchcraft’ series provides varied information about what it means to be a practising witch in modern times. In places, it feels like a guide, or self-help book. But there is much more to it than that. What strikes me is the amount of science running through the book. To understand nature is to live as a part of nature, and ultimately to become one with its changing patterns and cycles, to synchronise one’s own psychic or magical energy with natural tidal forces and the elements. So a witch, like no other religious practitioner that I’m aware of, must study her environment carefully, and attune her life to it … The learning is multi-disciplinary, and feels almost as if one was studying a textbook written by a poet … it has that sense of quiet wonder about it, supported by education, knowledge and, above all, wisdom.”
Andy Lloyd Book Reviews
Certainly Melusine's best Moon Book to date. A well-paced interesting romp through the history of Traditional Witchcraft that, what it lacks in Hutton's intense, scholarly presentation, it makes up for in readability. Trevor Greenfield, Moon Books
Author's Notes: This is the fifth title in Melusine Draco's Traditional Witchcraft series
Where To Buy: Amazon
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