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From Sable Aradia.
Beyond Mere Witchcraft
“Oh, I used to study Wicca,” says the 22-year-old woman with a patronizing smile, “but I’ve gone beyond that now.”
“Have you?” I ask, arching my eyebrow while I sit at the fair table where I’m selling the witchcraft books I wrote.
Realizing she has made an error, she backtracks. “Oh, well, you know, I think it’s perfectly fine for some.” She is unaware of her derision, her dismissal. “But I find I get so much more in the path I’m following now. And I don’t need all those tools.” Her tone is smug. Her implication is clearly that I must be less enlightened than she is, because she thinks I do.
Of course she does. She’s left witchcraft for the New Age community. She’s 22 years old and offering classes on the sacred feminine, communicated with special miracle health food, yoni crystals, and retreats at her home temple space. All for a monthly subscription price. Naturally the stuff costs extra. I don’t know who, if anyone, is paying for it.
I offered a free class on the sacred feminine two years ago, built from material that was handed down to me from a woman who was my teacher. No one came.
The Law of Attraction and Social Class
I get it. Sure I do.
We must look archaic to a lot of people. Perhaps we even look a little bit ridiculous. Look at how much farther they’ve gotten than we have! We always seem to be grappling with some major moral issue. We’re always railing at the injustice of the world. Meanwhile, they just think happy thoughts all the time, and never indulge in negativity, and the Universe provides all they need through the Law of Attraction.
No one mentions that most of the women I know who are involved in the New Age movement have married rich husbands because they came from upper middle class backgrounds. And I find it interesting that the ones who didn’t — like the lovely 22 year old I have mentioned — have all the same struggles I do. They have bad relationships and personal struggles and, above all, financial problems.
What’s wrong, then? Perhaps their ability to think happy thoughts and believe in the Law of Attraction to protect them isn’t good enough?
I think they tell themselves that. I think they convince themselves every day that if they just believe a little harder, things will get better.
So they follow the latest “conscious living” fad (and believe me, they come in fads — in the time I owned my metaphysical store I saw the rise and fall of orgone generators, the healing power of water, Stones of the New Consciousness, the Flower of Life, colloidal silver, and zen wands, to name but a few). In many cases, they spend thousands of dollars, when I know for a fact that what it cost to make the item could be expressed in hundreds of pennies.
But every time they embrace the new trend, everyone around them reinforces their choice. They tell them how wonderful and enlightened they are, that they can open their consciousness to these new methods, which science is too self-absorbed to understand. They compliment one another’s cleverness in that they are able to see through the bullshit of the rest of humanity. They talk about how the coming New Age of consciousness (which will happen any day now! Like Y2K/the great planetary alignment/the end of the Mayan calendar/etc.) will change the world so that only the peaceful, conscious-living people will survive while everybody else goes to hell in a handbasket. And rather than ever acknowledging that the fad they spent so much money on didn’t seem to be as effective as they’d hoped, they just move on to the next one, maintaining their positivity.
In this world, there’s no place for discernment, or doubt, or even calling out abuse. It’s all about plastic smiles and appearances over reality.
You’re Special, Just Like Everyone Else
It’s only natural for people to want to feel special. People want to hear that if their lives are good, it’s because they deserve it. Our ego loves to hear how wonderful it is.
We need our egos to survive. These are the constructs that give us our sense of self, and without them, we become hiveminds and doormats. Many psychological disorders — I would say possibly even PTSD, as someone who suffers from it — is all about crippling damage to our egos.
So the ego is the most greedy, self-centered creature on earth. It doesn’t ever want to hear anything that takes away from its central position in the Universe, and it never, ever wants to be questioned.
In the New Age movement, and indeed, in some poisoned halls of Paganism, it never has to be. People are told that they’re weird because they’re indigo children, or they are crazy because the gods are speaking specifically to them as Their Chosen Ones. There’s no room for discernment because there’s no place for judgment. After all, to have judgment is to be judgmental, and everyone has their own special truth to share with the world.
And I believe that, I do! But sometimes, people are weird because they’re suffering from undiagnosed PTSD or bipolar disorder or autism, and sometimes people are crazy because they’re having a psychotic break due to mood disorders, malnutrition, heavy metal poisoning or schizophrenia, and they need treatment and maybe medication.
A dear friend in the New Age community, one who does not fall for the fads, one who believes in authenticity and is generally authentic in her own life, believed that her newly acquired inability to digest meat was a result of a newly raised vibration; when it turned out to be, in fact, a parasite acquired from tainted water that did lasting damage to her digestive tract, since she ignored it for quite some time.
Questioning and discernment are important.
Witchcraft: A Path for the Underclass
It is said that on the gates of Eleusis was the inscription Know Thyself. Witchcraft, if you follow it long enough, and seek to find its deeper mysteries rather than attend Sabbats once in a while and do a spell whenever you want a new job, is all about that. It’s about Shadow Work. It’s about confronting your ego face to face, kicking it in the crotch a few times, breaking it down, and rebuilding it — with, hopefully, healthier boundaries.
We recognize this. We know it so well, that we even recognize the symptoms of an ego fighting to save itself. in the wake of this aggression. We call it High Priestess’ Disease, and far too many places in our community are run by the people doing this Work. Eventually many of them have breakdowns. Others, I think, make it through the treacherous forest, at least in part, and then disappear.
I’m not saying we’re immune to the constructs of ego. We most certainly are not! But the willingness to question ego, to challenge its authority, can be a good path to take. We’re by no means the only ones who do this. We didn’t even invent it; we can probably credit the ancient mystery cults for that, or maybe even certain Vedic traditions which are older, or perhaps even the ancient mysteries of the hunter-gatherer civilizations of our prehistory.
But it’s hard. It’s so damn hard! We’re constantly facing this exhausting challenge if we continue on this path. Our self-esteem is often in ruins. And it’s not like it brings us money, or prestige, or even any personal spiritual satisfaction aside from a plague of doubt and questioning and a deep belief that we will never, ever complete this exhausting Work.
What it does give us is greater anger directed at the hallowed halls of power, and greater empathy for the suffering of others.
No wonder most of us give up. No wonder people would rather believe they can achieve enlightenment simply by thinking positively enough. And isn’t it convenient that wealth, health and happiness are also brought to them through that path? Or at least, so they believe.
Which may be why witches are notoriously cheap. Maybe it’s because rich witches join the New Age movement, where everyone will tell them that they’re wealthy, healthy and happy because they deserve it.
Never mind that Dr. Wayne Dyer, who once bragged that the Law of Attraction was the reason why he hadn’t had a cold in twenty years, died of cancer.
It’s no wonder no one ever wants to hear about anything negative in the New Age (and part of the Pagan) community! Everyone wants to believe they’re special. Everyone wants to be believe they’re immortal, and their happiness and healthiness will last forever because they’re nicer than everyone else, or because they’re better at manifesting, or that they’re a better Christian or the gods have otherwise chosen them.
No one wants to talk about how affluent, and how white, these people are. Or how better nutrition and less stress leads to better health.
Why People Are Racist
And this applies as much to the overculture as it does to the subculture of the New Age and Pagan movements.
People don’t want to face the fact that their happy, privileged life is the result of good luck or selling out. They don’t want to face the fact that they might someday go bankrupt or get cancer. They are terrified that the only thing that keeps them from starving in the street is the presence of an entirely arbitrary number that represents their portion of an entirely fictional system of wealth, founded on nothing but belief.
They don’t want to admit that the only reason they have the things they do is because others do not have those things, and the criteria of what determines that is unfairly weighed in favour of one gender and one race.
So they make up stories. They tell themselves that Native Peoples and Hispanics are lazy. They tell themselves that black people are labouring under a “victim mentality,” and that if they just tried to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, surely they would succeed! They tell themselves that women just aren’t as good at business as men are.
They tell themselves that God has chosen them to succeed because they’re better people, or better Christians, or smarter, or sexier. They tell themselves that Haiti is beaten by hurricanes because they practice devil-worship, and they ignore or deny that tropical climates just have more hurricanes and that their white ancestors were the ones that brought the ancestors of the Haitians there.
And if they aren’t doing as well as they think they should be, they convince themselves that all they need to do is try harder. Work harder, save more, budget better, come up with a cleverer idea. And they ignore the fact that they’ve been doing the same things for twenty or forty years and falling behind, not getting ahead.
Because otherwise, they would have to confront their egos. They would have to admit that oppression of others and good luck for them are all that save them from the difficulties that so many others struggle with. And the ego doesn’t want to hear it.
Well, witches, maybe it’s time to help others to confront their egos too, don’t you think?
I’m a Pagan and speculative fiction author, a professional blogger, and a musician. I’m proudly Canadian and proudly LGBTQ. My politics are decidedly left and if you ask for my opinion, expect an honest answer. I own a dog and am owned by a cat. I used to work part time at a bookstore and I love to read, especially about faith, philosophy, science, and sci-fi and fantasy.
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