Looking Through the Trees: Traditional Witchcraft
Article ID: 16012
Age Group: Adult
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Posted: February 10th. 2017
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Living in the southern part of WV with my parents and sisters until I moved away in the 80’s, I wasn't like the rest of the kids that lived around me. Only had maybe one friend, and even she thought I was a bit odd at times. When I became a teenager. I didn't think like the rest of the girls. Their thoughts were on boys, growing up getting married having kids and that was basically it. My thoughts were of finishing school going to college and moving to New England. My thoughts were on books, science and nature and Art, no matter if it was paintings, sculptures, dancing, acting or poetry. Murder mysteries and a good ghost story! I also loved reading about myths and things mystical and magic! And I was a daydreamer!
My mother was a conservative Christian. But honestly, that’s the way she was raised and it was pretty much the norm back then, especially in the south. I felt that the bible was a very violent and prejudice book! I still feel that way. I know there are some Christians that don’t go by and believe everything in the bible, thank goodness! But there are a lot who still do! For me growing up in the mountains during that time... Well, with me being me, it was very hard.
I remember one time; I was ten years old. Everyone else was asleep and I got up and went outside, sat down on the ground and looked up at the beautiful full moon. And talked to the trees, to the sounds of the woods, to the full moon. Where we live, which was up on a hillside. Down below our driveway almost at the bottom of the hill, there was a stream. I would go to the stream and sit on a rock, and listen to the running water. Sometimes I would find a frog, catch it, hold it in my hands and talk to it. Sometimes I would splash some water from the stream on my face. I thought it was magical and it would make me pretty.
One time in the summer after it had rained. I went out into the backyard and set down on the ground and covered my arms, face and legs with the wet mud. And put my hand down into the muddy ground, closed my eyes. And it was as if I could hear the heartbeat of the earth. My Mother yelling at me to get up snapped me out of this beautiful trance. I think I was about eleven years old. I've always have been tuned to the earth, nature and animals. I loved horses growing up. And I still do. My favorite animals are horses, fox, rabbits, goats, cats, dogs, blue jays, crows and ravens, and yes, frogs.
We were all made to go to church, every Sunday. I remember in my Sunday school class I’d asked questions no one could answer. About dinosaurs and if God made man in his image, then why isn't everyone a man? And why did the woman have to do everything the man said? That wasn’t fair! Then where did the cave man come from? How could Noah get all the animals on the Earth into this ark? This is a pretty big planet! With an awful lot of animals! If there were two of each animal, how did he feed them? And if it was just Noah’s family on the ark, how did they have so many babies? They had sex with each other? Ewww! I got sent home from the church with a note!
When I was in middle school, I found a book in the library on anthropology and archaeology. I found one book about an anthropologist by the name of Charles Darwin. I brought it home, read it and it opened my eyes on so many things! It showed me that there was another way of the earth and every living thing existing and being created, other than a God creating everything in only seven days! That did make much more since to me. And I’m still a firm believer in evolution. When my mother found it, she was not happy! I was punished for reading such a book, of course. I don’t know what happened to that book, what she did with it. I was too upset and angry with her to care. A few years later and another one of many trips to the town library, and the discovery of another very interesting book: Believe it or not, in the encyclopedia section. I picked up the volumes with the letters Wh and Wi, sat down and staring thumbing through them.
The book with all the Wi words and meanings, such as Wisconsin, Wish, Witch. Witch? Hmm, that’s interesting!
Now I was told as far as I can remember that witches are evil devil worshippers! They all are of the devil! Satan! Not just science and art, I also loved reading about the supernatural, ghosts, haunted houses and spooky things. I thought I would find stories and pictures of scary witches brewing up potions to turn people into frogs, with horrible green faces! There was a picture of the woman that played the bad witch in the Wizard of Oz, and stories of what people thought witches were and supposed to be.
But then the more I read, the more I found that the people that were real witches didn’t look or act like what they were supposed to be. In the book, I read about people that were witches, real witches. Like Selena Fox, Doreen Valiente, Sybil Leek and others. They didn’t have green faces, or scary ugly grins. They weren't cooking babies in a big black pot or sacrificing a girl on an altar to some devil or Satan! These witches were nothing like the stories I was told! Not at all!
On reading about Doreen Valiente and the other witches, I came across the word Pagan and Wicca. I also found in this book that thousands of people were burned alive and hanged for being accused of witchcraft! And that many pagan sites were destroyed and replaced with churches! I was going to take the book home, but then thought. Nope! Remember what happened last time?! That was the day when I decided to start keeping things to myself. I wanted to know more! But, as life is. It can and does get in the way.
I never stopped wanting to know and learn more, it was always there. But school, dealing with a dysfunctional family and then later marriage and having kids made life much too busy. But at times, when I did have the chance. And this wasn't from a book. I would just set in quiet and just feel and just know. I didn’t understand the how or the why. The why do I feel this way? Why do I think this way? Or the why do I know this is right? I did this, what I call Communing, for years. Until in the early 90’s. A divorce later and my kids in their teens. I started reading books, as many books as I could and redoing research on witches, witchcraft and paganism.
But I remember the first book I read that gave me the light bulb over the head reaction, was Doreen Valiente s book, Witchcraft- A Tradition Renewed. It was in the Barnes and Noble bookstore. I came across this little book and bought myself a frappe, sat down and started reading. It was an awakening for me. During this time, I bought a magazine called Sage Woman. I still have that magazine! A long with many other books I’ve collected through the years.
In the back of Sage Woman were the want ads and correspondences and a pen-pal section. Another light bulb over the head reaction! Reading about witches and paganism is good! But talking to a pagan witch is better! I wrote and I got a response! I remember being so excited! And we even set date to meet. (That was twenty-two years ago! And we’re still friends!) She helped me in understanding so much and introduced me to so many wonderful people! Another wonderful lady I met, a sweet wise woman that will always be a very dear friend! I went to Pagan gatherings, involved myself in rituals and practiced. Through the years, the more I learned of Wicca and talked to Wiccans, the more I felt something didn’t quite set right with me. And I would always get that feeling when I would go outside and set in my garden or go into the woods and just set on the ground.
I had heard about Gerald Gardener, the father of Wicca. And read all on how it came into being. I also read and heard from others saying that Wicca is an ancient old pagan religion. And in the beginning, being a new Wic-let. I thought, why not? They should know what they’re talking about, right? It was only years later I did some deep searching, research and reading more books on Gerald Gardener that I found out this was wrong! Wicca was not an ancient old pagan religion. In fact, it was not that old at all! But, it still held a place in my heart! I started reading more and more about Goddess religions. Not only in pagan books and books on Goddess and God myths. But also in books on archeology.
I still wasn’t quite right with some of the teachings in Wicca. For instance, the “magic” name you were to give yourself. It was a name to hold power. I think this was a form to make people feel special or important. Fine if that works for that person. I was told once that it made the witch feel empowered to hold a name of secret. Ok, I get it. But is it needed? No, it’s not. I don’t think it had anything to do with spell work or ritual work at all. But, to each their own I suppose. So, if they had to have a name of power and of secret? Then why tell everyone in a pagan group your power “secret” name? I thought these names were only spoken in coven or in ritual?
And there is the sky-clad. Performing rituals in the nude. What?! Not in every ritual, no. But what?! Ok, I know that Gerald Gardener was big on being nude; he was a nudist. It’s said it’s to make the practitioner feel free and closer spiritually to the Gods. And so, he incorporated this into he’s Wicca religion! And the calling quarters and watch towers and corners! Wow! That’s an awful lot of calling just to get where you need to go and do what you need to do! Again, to each their own. And drawing a circle on the ground, the land or on the floor for sacred space. I thought all land was sacred? And you must draw a circle every time you do a spell? Or a ritual?
The Wiccan Rede, which is a very spiritual and beautiful piece of poetry, written by Doreen Valiente in 1964. The last few words in the Wiccan rede sums up a lot of the Wiccan belief. “An ye harm none, do as thy will”
Now this is meant to be advise, not a rule! But if looked closer into this statement, it cannot make any sense really. Life harms as much as it heals. Unfortunately, you cannot have the one without the other. And the other phrase in the rede is, “three times bad and three times good”. In another words, if you do something bad it’ll come back to you three times as bad! And visa-versa. Well, what if someone is trying to hurt you? Or someone in your family? And they still will not stop even after warned? Do you just stand by and let them do harm? Because of a threefold law? The karma effect?
Now I do believe in a “what goes around, comes around” the “come upp’ins” effect. But I do not (and didn’t back then) believe that if you had to, only with dire need to protect yourself and your loved ones by whatever means it took. And by that, I mean a curse, then yes! And I don’t think the old Gods and the ancestors are going to get all pissed off and give you a big dose of threefold whup-ass! Or you’re going to be a slug in another life! Now I’m not saying go around throwing curses about just because you had a bad day! No! And I do believe if you are a mean, cruel and horrible person, you will get your com upp’ins! The ancestors will make sure of that! And a little push doesn’t hurt!
Now I know not all Wiccan’s believe like this and practice this way. In fact, they’re many that agree with me on some things. Wicca is no better than any other pagan or witchcraft practice and any other pagan or witchcraft practice is no better than Wicca. No spiritual path, practice or religion is better than the other! It’s what is right for that individual. And I do understand that this is the structure and belief of Wicca. But yes, Virginia! There was a different craft before Gerald Gardener’s Wicca and Alexandrian Wicca. And it wasn’t until 2000 and a walk in the woods in the Autumn season that I found that there was a difference.
Before Gardener and Sanders came on the scene, there was no Wicca, only witchcraft. Witches. Some were in covens and some were loners. Or solitaire. The witches that were in covens held their own tradition as did the solitaire. They were and still are the traditional witches that practice traditional witchcraft of the old ways. No magical names, no threefold law and no drawing circles thrice about. This brought me back to Doreen Valiente’s book, Witchcraft- A Tradition Renewed and by that, brought me to the book, Treading the Mill by Nigel G. Pearson. I found myself and to thyself be true!
A trip to the drug store one day and fate introduced me to a sweet, kind and caring young woman. A Wic-let if there ever was one! She’s now grown into her own and I love it! We were like two peas in a pod! But as life is. We still see each other from time to time, and she will always be a friend! I do remember a lady that had a small group. Very nice woman. We began being friends and I would go to her gatherings and we’d all meet for chat at a coffee shop. It was nice! She asked if I would be interested in joining her little group, I told her that I’m not Wiccan. That I am pagan but I practice traditional witchcraft. And there is a difference in Wicca and Traditional Witchcraft.
I told her the differences and there were two other people there who were very interested in what I was saying. They would ask questions and I would answer to the best that I could. One young man piped in and said, 'that does seem more real'. Well, that’s all it took! I wasn’t asked back again. I think this nice lady thought I was trying to invade on her group. But I wasn’t, I was only answering questions.
I had another lady that I was introduced to. When I told her that I wasn’t Wiccan but a traditional witch. She looked at me and said, ' oh you do that dark magic stuff. 'What?! Dark magic stuff?! All I could do was smile and say, yeah that’s what I do. I didn’t explain to her what the differences were or why I’m traditional witch. I became tired of explaining and telling them. I just told them to look it up; either it touches you or it doesn’t! I did feel like an outsider looking in though. I drove home wondering if I was the only traditional witch out there! Was I?
Why do Wiccans assume that traditional witches are dark and bad and use black magic and play around with dark forces and are grim and angry? We don’t and we are not! Now I understand why traditional witches are so secretive! Well, there is more to our secretive nature than that. But on the other side of the coin, there are some traditional witches that think Wicca is new age fluffy bunny foofoo. To each their own I say and the best thing to do is educate yourself on both sides of the coin! You will come across the most wonderful and real and the most weird and ridiculous!
My kids are now adults, married and with kids of their own. I have four grandchildren. And I’m hoping my son and his husband will one day adopt. I have a son and two daughters and three pretty cool son-in-laws! And I’m with the most wonderful man in the world! I am blessed! I have been a pagan traditional witch, in my heart and spirit for as long as I can remember! But the actual practice for over fifteen years and it will be many more years until I pass over into the other world. And it took my spirit to open that door. And yes, Wicca! With all its do’s and don’ts, regulations and routines. It helped me to find the real me! And it will always have a place in my heart. But the ways of the traditional witch have always been inside me.
Laying quietly, waiting to open my eyes and see through the trees. Letting life’s experiences show me what I needed to know. I feel like that eleven-year-old little girl sitting in the cool muddy rain, listening to the heartbeat of the Earth again! I, myself, never could practice or feel Wicca as a religion. I know many say and feel Wicca is a religion and practice as so, and by right it is. And if that makes them a better person, very good! And there are those that practice Wicca as a spiritual path. But as for me, it would have been spiritual. To begin with, I am not a religious person. But I do understand the pull spiritually to the essence and heart of Wicca. I do love that Wicca has taken of the old pagan beliefs and practices that pre-date, all the “main stream” religions of today. Wicca for me would be a spiritual belief not a religious belief. Because in my opinion, once religion becomes spirituality, that’s when the problems start!
That’s why I call myself Pagan, without any “religious” beliefs or dogmas. I practice my own tradition of Traditional Witchcraft. I am a Pagan Traditional Witch. I’m a lone practitioner. I would love to have a coven one day. But living in a small conservative town made up of mostly conservative republicans makes it hard for any one that’s pagan, witch or Wiccan! Are there traditional witches out there? Yes, there is. Where? I don’t know. I wish I did! I’ve search the Internet, web sites and blogs. And did find there more in the U.K than here in America. Well, that is where it first started, in the U.K. But who knows? Maybe the Old Gods, the ancestors will send fate my way and find those traditional witches to join a coven. And if fate would have it, I already have a name for that coven! The name has been with me for years. I wrote it down on a piece of paper when I was thirteen years old.
My traditional practice: Don’t get all excited! I’m not telling my secrets of practice. Just the basics. First and foremost, to thyself be true. Respect and honor each other in the coven. There is no high priest or high priestess here. There is no one above or below the other. All are equal. There are elders in a coven that practices Traditional Witchcraft. And utmost respect is due them. Those that are more knowledge and with more experience will teach and lead until knowledge is passed on. There is equal work in ritual and spell workings. There are no “magical names” here. The ancestors, elemental spirits and the Old Gods accept your name just as it is! There is no worship of any kind. We respect, honor and pay homage to the Old Gods, the ancestors and the spirits of the elements. We work with the spirits of the ancestors and the spirits of the four elements, Earth, Air, Fire and Water. There is no triple Goddess here. Seeing The Goddess as the Earth, the land, primal raw nature, the turning seasons, the turning tide and spirit in all things. Seeing The God, the Horned One. The Old Stag that is guardian of the wild woods, the dark forests and of The Goddess. They can be two yet one and the same. The seeding, the growth, the harvest, the sacrifice and death to begin again. The Wheel of life.
There is no “three-fold law” here! If the coven or any working witch in the coven or a witch working alone. Or family of that witch is threatened or harmed, whether be physical or mental. There will be warnings, and if these warnings are not taken. A bottled, bind, hex or curse will be spelled upon the guilty. The thought of cause and effect, there is always an equal and opposite reaction and the Traditional Witch will take responsibility for their own actions. But to use such a resource as a curse or hex, the coven must first discuss this action. And the witch alone will think long and hard before taking such action. Traditional Witches do not or ever will just go off willy-nilly throwing hexes and curses around and about! It must be a last resort situation. A bottled or binding is more used and much of the time, does the trick! In fact, Traditional Witches are performing healing and spiritual work more than anything. There is no “karma” here. Again, cause and effect, there is always an equal an opposite reaction.
Reincarnation, not as in the Wicca belief: No going to a “Summerland” and then being reborn in another person, or staying in the Summerland in traditional witchcraft. The soul or spirit after death goes through the other world to join the ancestors. It can stay or come back as a spirit of the land or guardian of land or family or can be born into another being. But witches can and more than not, commune with friend or family passed for advice as with the ancestors, allowing the spirit of a loved one to rest for a whole year of their passing before communing. But there is a belief that a spirit of family passed can visit in dream or visual to inform of something important before the year of rest. The light and the dark.
The light half and dark half of the year. Spring, Summer-light half. Autumn, Winter-dark half. Not atoning to the eight sabbots of the wheel of the year to a Goddess or a God as in Wicca, but to the cycles of the Earth, the seasons and the tides not for a specific Goddess or God. For instance, the spring equinox would be looked upon as the first day of spring, the light half, not for the Goddess Ostara. And May 1st or Beltain would be when the first flower is in full bloom. There is no calling quarters or watchtowers or invoking The Goddess or The Horned God. No inviting them in our rituals. Why? They are already with us always! There is no “I call upon”. Unless calling upon the ancestors or spirit or the elements. There is no initiation; there is a dedication to the coven and to yourself as a witch to The Old Gods and to the ancestors. To perform alone or within the coven, there are rites of passage, in birth, wedding, elder and death. There is no timed learning process, the year and a day, not in this tradition of witchcraft, or in Traditional Witchcraft in general. It is learned as you grow, knowledge as you go.
Knowledge is passed from one to the other and practiced from within the coven. And most often and more than not. The traditional witch practices a lone and not be in a coven at all. But there are traditional witchcraft covens. And they are very secretive. Even the lone witch is secretive in her/his practice. To keep silent. There are no casting circles thrice about to keep evil spirits out! All land is scared and I lay the compass round, usually performed only when in absolute need. Ritual work to summon the ancestors or spirit and in some spell working…and that even depends on the spell. But we don’t cast a circle every time a spell is needed! Tools for spell and ritual work are from the Earth. Sometimes, not using any items at all. Just incantations, will and thought.
Believe that there are good spirits and bad spirits. Just like there are good people and bad people. Or a good space and a bad space to work in. Everything has a good feel and a bad negative feel, or vibe so to speak. A witch can and will cast out a negative, bad space, or spirit. And yes, even a person! But no matter what is performed, no matter what spell or cleansing is done. Some places, some spirits and some people are far too gone in bad negativity to be helped. That’s when the witch and the coven will bottle or bind and walk away.
There is no white magic or dark magic. There is only magic! It is up to the witch to practice wisely. If there is an issue or conflict between a member of the coven, it is to be addressed and discussed with in the coven. To keep silent. What is practiced in the coven stays within the coven! No witch should tell the traditional secrets to an outsider of another witch or coven. Or to a family member. Nor to talk or discuss about another witch in the coven. To state that you are a Pagan or and a witch is entirely up to you. But never tell of the coven’s or circle secrets of spell work and ritual work! To Keep Silent! Each traditional witchcraft coven and traditional witch working alone has their own way of practices, of working in ritual, spell crafting, and holding the sabbats. Keep true to the old traditions of witchcraft of the old ways. Traditional Witchcraft.
May the Old Gods and the Great Ancestors
Bless You and Yours!
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