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The Old and the New


The Old and the New
By Rowan Canterbury

     Every thing grows and changes.  It matters not whether one can see it
or feel it. Tangibility is of little consequence to such a vast reality. 
The "religion" of witchcraft is no exception.  This article is one witch's
outlook on how we have changed over the hundreds of thousands of years
in which magick has blessed our lives.
       In the beginning (if you will excuse the expression) our faith was one
of survival.  I have been asked, time and time again, why I chose to follow
this path, rather than stay in the mainstream.  My answer is simple. 
After 22 years of study in the craft, it is eventually our roots that bring
me back to a soulful realization that I can live with on a karmic level. 
You see my friends, there was a time, long ago, when witchcraft was not
witchcraft, but a way of life. So to me it is about why the soup of the
soul was made not who is going to eat it.

     When the first homosapians emerged from their caves life was not
as mapped out.  Their entire environment was hostile and in the light of
the infant society, one had to learn fast or perish.  So it was that our
grandmothers and grandfathers set out to communicate with the natural
world. Every day was a learning experience, every spirit a mystery, every life
form in enigma.  In many ways I am jealous.  These people were closer to
nature than we will ever be. Their passion was driven by a respect for the
unknown and a reverence for the ability to create and sustain life.  As well
they were just this side of "animal" themselves.
     As time went on and cultures developed the skill of the natural
world and the healing arts became invaluable to a society.  Individuals that
excelled in such endeavors were elevated among their peers, yet as with
life as a human, with power comes greed.  It became apparent that a human's
spirit was much more powerful than the flesh and the belief of the soul
was a great tool for control.  Without going into a detailed historical
account, let it just be known that the difference between what some call "White Magick and Black Magick" is the motive of the user.  Magick that is
used for the benefit of all life, at this time seemed to become a family thing,
handed down from generation to generation with oral traditions.

     This type of magick was every day and always changing.  Unlike the
separate lives modern spiritualism offers to many people today,
religion and life were one in the same.  It fused the physical with the spiritual
and seeped into everyday physical actions.  Sex was a religious experience. 
Child birth was blessed.  One did not need an organized ritual to perform
magick, one was magick with the quality of one's life.

     So it was for thousands of years. . . until one day - Let it be
known that I am not a Christian basher up front.  I merely point out a
historical upheaval that seriously changed a culture - upon the introduction of
Christian religions, the world changed fast and hard.    In saying so I
would like to offer a blessing of thanks that we, as modern pagans are
relatively free to live as we choose.  In this dark time to be other than
what your local Church or State though you should be, meant public
ridicule, torture and in many cases death.  Death is not something those of us
that have freedom really understand until we are faced with it. Freedom is
something many people take for granted, and life is something we don't
really think about until it is almost over.  Upheaval of this nature can
eliminate a way of life.  I for one think it says something for the faiths
of pagan people to have survived such a fire of hatred and persecution,
and still emerge like a flower from the ashes.  Can it be said that this is
the test of a true faith?  Regardless, it changed many things.

     Hundreds of years would go by when men, women and children knew
what fear really was.  With this fear came emotional suppression and the
suppression of magick, ideas, and the natural soul.  As well men and
women were separated into two separate beings, with different social
standings and rules, thus upsetting a balance of a cosmic nature.  The new society also frowned on the basic belief that animals of all types were sacred as well as our mother earth.  So we saw centuries of burning, enslavement and
mental conditioning.  Africans were enslaved,
Native Americans were simply annihilated, and European forms of pagan
faiths were converted or burned.  Holidays were stolen, songs were transposed and the world took a fast hard right towards spiritual constipation.

     In this time the primary goal of anyone that did not believe Jesus
died for their sins, was again, survival.  This survival was eventually to
be one that would water down a way of life under quiet whispers and burned
books.  Entrapped in mental and oral tradition and held in secrecy, the social
war was waged once again, branding these practices as Evil and of the
Devil. It is only natural to assume that the injection of Christian faiths has
shaped neo-pagans into organized groups that operate on structured platforms
of position, rather than a wide spread community belief. While the new
Christians also followed suite and adopted Pagan holidays, thus
creating a hybrid of both faiths with a male dominated and church suppressed slant in order to better profit from the conversion of marked,
strong,indo-European civilizations, such as the Celts, Norse and those of the Druid order.

    In a dormant hull of shadows pagan faiths waited, like a super
nova, for the chance to shine again.  Thus said, we see the 1960s.  What a cool time.  Rock and roll opened the doors like a spiritual flood gate and our
cultures begged for peace and freedom.  Sexuality busted out of high necked
dresses and we burned bras and voted with the rest of society. The United
States of America was a undulating tornado of intrigue, lust, free love and the
Dawning of the Age of Aquarius.  Many people of Celtic decent started
saying "Hey, the history books are wrong and we are finding out that there is
a different story to our past?"  The constitution allowed these people a
relative amount of religious freedom and many brave individuals jumped
up and decided it was time for a change.  Our brothers and sisters in Europe
said, "Hey, we have been doing this behind the scenes for hundreds of
years!"  So it was society came out of the broom closet.

     In the year 2002 we see a totally different pagan than we did in
the B.C. times.  Witches of today have computers and homes.  If they get
sick, they go to the hospital,(which is not always a good thing) If they get
hungry they go to Giant Eagle, thus bypassing the whole hunting
gathering gig.  They are almost completely separate, and yet searching
for nature.  I was raised on a farm and am shocked to meet people on a
regular basis, that have never walked barefoot in the mud or held a new born
baby rabbit.

     Our survival challenges are much different as well. To survive in the
world today is a mental, rather than a physical journey.  Information
overload and the electronic highway have given birth to any number of
neo-pagan groups.  Many of us focus on money, rather than health, and
if we were to be really honest, physical appearance and social acceptance. 
It is rare to meet a pagan today that is not walking proud, in a confused
reality of their new found spirituality, rather than hiding in fear.  Satanic
groups, goth teens, sometimes it is a dizzy ride.

    For this old witch there is only one hope.  Spells are not a game,
life is not expendable.  Friends are invaluable and family is irreplaceable. 
Using magick to manipulate our surroundings, to make us more popular, or
better loved, is trivial.  When you pull it all down, ground it out, and
bring it back up, it all comes out the same:  We are a diamond in the
galaxy.  A tiny planet that supports life, a speck in the cosmos.  We have
the choice to be divine, to become greater than we are though our
actions.  We survive because nature survives, and in this life when push comes to shove we are all a blink in time's progression.  All the dances, all
the spells, all the loves and losses are destiny's choice.  I can only hope
we evolve into a good mixture of the strong, independent witches of today,
and the peace loving natural survivalists of the past.

Love and Blessings
Rowan Canterbury

*Laugh with the Maiden * Love with the Mother * Learn from the Crone*