Old School Witchcraft

While camping for a week this year at the Spiritual Retreat known as Dragonfest, I had the chance to talk to a local Priest who is Old School Witchcraft. I had spent the night before, being hit repeatedly over the head with the metaphysical 2X4.

You know, that feeling you get when the Gods want to be sure you listen to what they are saying. I had spent the evening in question, in the RV of my friends John and Mari, talking about the Drawing Down that they had been part of, the night before.

Both are old School Witchcraft, and powerful Witches.

There were a couple of things that caught my attention. First, was that all the Priests and Priestesses that were Drawing, were in very close proximity to each other, and to those who were waiting to see the Gods.

The second thing was that there seemed to be a general lack of respect by those who went before the Gods.

Having been on the Path since the late 80’s, I guess that makes me Old School Witchcraft too. I don’t generally go to the Drawing Down because I talk to the Gods daily.

I don’t need to have someone else as a medium. I have drawn down at Dragonfest, many years ago, and I understand that some people just want to have that confirmation you can get with such a ritual. I just don't need that.

The problem was that there seemed to be quite a few Seekers wearing t-shirt beer ads, who didn’t seem to realize that when you speak to the Gods, you do so on your knees, and you certainly don’t walk in and ask, “So, do you have something for me?

I spent that night in denial, about coordinating a Drawing Down for next year, while plotting and planning how I would do it...if I were going to, that is.

I’ve found this is often how things work. I deny that I’m going to do something the Gods tell me to do, but plan it out just the same.

After I left the RV, I ran into friends on the road, as they worked their Safety shift for the Retreat. Marion and I ran Dragonfest as Co-Directors in 1998, this was our tenth anniversary.

Her husband Stephan has drawn down many times at Dragonfest, in the past. Both have been practicing at least as long as I have, and have written tips for large scale rituals they call Ritual for 300. Again, Old School Witchcraft.

I talked to them for a few minutes, and asked Stephan if he would be willing to Draw if I coordinated a ritual. Somewhat to my surprise, he said yes.

Marion had some interesting ideas about the Gods who walk among us. Generally, when there is a Drawing Down, the Priest and or Priestess sit away from the Seekers, and wait for the Seekers to come to them.

Marion’s idea was that should a God or Goddess be interested, that they might get up, and walk to where the Seekers await, and grab one to “take a walk” and talk.

The next day, I sought out my friend and Teacher, Margaret. This is the woman who has always embodied what it is to be a Priestess, to me. She is Old School Witchcraft embodied.

I can remember one time when she was working at a local metaphysical bookstore, I had been stopping in on a regular basis, in an attempt to date one of the ladies who worked there.

This was back when I first started on my Path, and had no real idea what to do. I had gone in to the store on a Sunday afternoon, and the young lady I wanted to see wasn’t working that day. I asked Margaret if I could find out when she would be working next.

Margaret looked at me, and instantly, the Priestess was there. I am 6’3” and she is probably about 5’5”, yet I remember her towering over me, as she looked not at me, but into me.

I knew at that moment, that if she found anything she didn’t like, I would get no information at all.

As quickly as the Priestess had appeared, she disappeared, and in her grandmotherly way, Margaret said she would look at the schedule for me.

I had passed the test. My motives were simple and harmless, so she told me what I wanted to know.

It was at that moment that I decided that if I ever got the chance, no matter how far along the Path I thought I was, if Margaret ever offered a class, I would take it.

It wasn’t until many years later, that I got that chance.

It took a bit of searching, but I finally found Margaret over at Youthfest. I talked to her about what I had heard of the Drawing Down, and found that she had already been discussing the very same issues with Coven mates.

She and I agreed that we were on the same page as to what we wanted to see in such a ritual, and she instructed me to talk to Holly, who had been another Priestess in the Drawing Down two nights before.

Finding Holly was much easier, as she and her husband had a vender’s booth. Holly and her husband have been practicing their Craft many years longer than I have, and are definitely Old School Witchcraft. Most of the talk I had was with her husband, whom I mentioned in the first paragraph.

He had been working with her as she drew down, so he had seen all the things she hadn’t been there for. He pointed in the general direction of the rest of the Retreat and said, “I’ll bet 80% of the people here are Fluff Bunny Pagans”.

Now that’s an inflamatory statement if ever I heard one, and I’m sure the shock showed on my face.

He went on to say that he believed that most of them wouldn’t know how to enter a Challenge Circle. I thought about that, and realized that it has been a long time since I was challenged at the entrance of a Circle with “How do you enter this Circle?” I had to agree that he was probably right.

He talked about rituals they’ve done out on acreage they use for ritual, where Seekers go one at a time from station to station, on their way to meet the Gods.

Each Seeker finds their way alone to each station, and the next station can barely be seen from the current one.

He talked of fording a shallow river fifty feet across, barefoot and in the dark, stumbling over uneven ground that couldn’t be seen, and hoping that he wasn’t lost.

All this, to strip away the mundane world, and allow you to enter the Spiritual Realm. The solitude of being by yourself, and being able to rely on no one but you, is a powerful method for altering conscience.

This made my idea of walking a footpath next to the stream, and then up the stairs by the waterfall seem downright simple. I had been worried that people wouldn’t be willing to take a physical journey to see the Gods, and now I was reminded that the Path to the Gods should never be easy.

Knowledge gained with ease, isn’t as valued as that gained by struggle. If you have to work for what you get, you feel so much more satisfied than if it’s simply given to you.

Anyone who thinks they can just read a few books, or a website, and become a Priest/ess, needs to rethink their Path. Only with hard work and practice, does true Wisdom come.

This is Old School Witchcraft.

I have been honored to be in several rituals that really left an impression on me. Those are the rituals where I think, “That is the type of ritual I want to do, when I grow up!”

Thinking back on those rituals, they all involved a Drawing Down, and most involved a physical journey. I had to go from where I started, to where I needed to be.

We all know what our idea of a Fluff Bunny is. My personal view is that they are the Witches who give lip service to their Craft, but never really practice it.

They read a few books, attend some open rituals, and they think they’ve got it.

Part of being a Witch, is challenge. You have to challenge yourself, and be challenged by others, be they peers, Priests, or the Gods.

To simply stand in Circle and take part in ritual does not make you a Witch. To meet and overcome challenges, physical, mental, emotional, and Spiritual, is what makes a Witch.

Anyone can say the words. Only those who live them, truly understand what it means to be Wicce. The Wicce, or Wise are those who push themselves beyond what is required, and into what is possible.

This is Old School Witchcraft.

There are far too many who find this path, and fall into the ‘Love and Light’ crap. Yes, there is love and light, but there is also darkness and solitude.

There is a website I’ve seen where the webmistress lists 50 principals that make a Witch. The headlines, the parts that can’t help but catch your eye, are all very fluffy, and nice when read in sequence.

It’s the details that follow each headline that hold the real meat.

If you read just the headlines, it all sounds very light and joyful, and...fluffy. Too many who come to this Path read only the light and uplifting headlines. They don’t bother to look at what’s behind them. Being an Old School Witch means getting the details, and paying attention to them.

I also want to make sure that you understand that I didn’t pick this particular website because I think it’s a bad site, or disagree with what she has.

It is just a very good example of how most see this Path. If that’s the Path they want to walk, they aren’t reading this.

Take a look at the website. The link opens a new window, so you won’t lose your place here. Read just the headlines under The Principles of Wiccan Belief: Philosophy & Practice. You’ll find that it all sounds very sweet and New-Agey. Again, she isn’t wrong in her beliefs, just different.

Now read some of the headlines and the text that follows it. I can’t say that I agree with all 50 of the principals because I’ve never read them all. The ones I have read, when the smaller explanations are included, I find are quite valid.

The problem is, people are basically lazy. It didn’t used to be this way, but in our society of instant anything and disposable everything, we’ve gotten used to the idea of convenience.

We even have on-line degrees where you don’t have to study.

Witchcraft isn’t instant, and it isn’t easy. I admit to being jaded. When someone tells me they’re Wiccan, I immediately think ‘Fluffy’.

I’ve met far too many people claiming to be Wiccan, who just don’t get it. That is why I call what I do, Witchcraft. It’s just that. A Craft.

Wicca, in my opinion has become Witchcraft Lite. All the affirmations of Old School Witchcraft, with a third of the effort.

If that offends you, show me I’m wrong. I’m open-minded.

I think those who have worked hard to learn their Craft should be offended by those who just play at it. Is this elitism? Absolutely!

Witchcraft isn’t one size fits all, it’s individual to everyone who practices it. Those who do the work become good at it, and have every right to be proud of their accomplishments.

To claim what hasn’t been duly earned by hard work cheapens the prize.

This doesn’t mean that I think you can’t be an extraordinary Witch if you don’t belong to a Coven, or haven’t learned from a teacher.

I know many very good Witches who have studied only with books, and one extraordinary Witch who has never picked up a book in her life. Everything she does is based on her own intuition, and what feels right to her.

What sets them apart is that in every case, they have done the work to perfect what works for them.

This is not a dissertation on the one and only way to become a Witch, it’s about working on your Craft, and being the best Witch you can. It's about Old School Witchcraft.

You already know the motions and the ritual, now work on becoming better. Know your spells work, don’t think they will. Study herbs, or tarot, or astrology. Find what interests you and persue it with a passion.

A Kitchen Witch is as much a Witch as the Priest who studies for years, as long as she’s good at what she does.

Don’t play at Witchcraft, live it!

Perhaps someday you’ll hold a ritual where someone you respect tells you, “That’s the type of ritual I want to do when I grow up”.

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