Q&A Part II – Voodoo and Hoodoo

To pick up where I left off with The Road Less Traveled’s set of intricate questions, I will actually end up mirroring the methodology of the post which I submitted yesterday. I love writing about this kind of stuff and my noodle is brimming with commentary about the more intellectual aspects of Paganism, so this is all perfectly timed. Plus, taking many pages of commentary and boiling them down to three or so pages forces me to concentrate on the real crux of the issue. I just hope y’all enjoy eavesdropping on my answers to TRLT as much as I enjoy composing them. I think I’ve exhausted the portion that asks, “What is the main difference between” Witchcraft(s). Here I will look at the variation among Voodoo(s) so that I can also address Hoodoo later in this post. Sorcery will have to wait.

Just as across Europe there are sets of non-homogenous “versions” of Witchcraft, some falling under neoPagan Gardnerian paradigms, some not, there are many, many ATR-based[1] (African Traditional Religions) religions. Voodoo itself, like Witchcraft, is not a uniform system. In several countries Voodoo is practiced with varying traditions, purposes, and structures.

Bear in mind that my information regarding Voodoo and all other ATR-based religions is derived from a scholarly perspective only; I am an outsider of these traditions.

We are most familiar with Haitian Voodoo,[2] which is likely the most visible of the Voodoo traditions. Since the decline of Duvalierism, Voodoo has been instituted as a national religion with official status. This makes a big difference when you compare it to South American Voodoo. (Yes, I mean South American Voodoo – not Santeria. I’ll get to Santeria in a minute.) Consider the freedoms granted in a religion that is sanctioned by the government versus one that must operate in clandestine modes. In Venezuela, for instance, the accepted religion is Catholicism, however, folks practice Voodoo as a regular course. We are familiar with the syncretic correspondences made between Catholic saints and Voodoo loa (and Santarian orisha) and understand that this arose out of the need to veil the practices from the eyes of officials. In Venezuela, as I understand it, Voodoo practices are not outlawed, yet citizens “identify” themselves as Catholic. So it seems to me that Voodoo could be envisioned as either a systematic religion in toto (as in Haiti) or a limited practice with a syncretic relationship to Catholicism (as in Venezuela, Cuba, and other locales). Both must be, in my opinion, deemed valid; however we should be cautious to identify what we mean when we refer to “Voodoo” since there is such variance across cultures.

I know you didn’t ask this part, but I’d like to offer the information since I have it on hand. There are many other ATR-based religions that are alive and well in the 20th Century. Across the Caribbean and into South America, there are as many variations that stem back to African religions as there are Witchcraft traditions (as there are Christian denominations, for that matter). Just to name a few, consider Umbanda of Brazil, Candomble of Uruguay, and Cuban Santeria.

At this point, I’d like to jump ahead to one of your latter questions that I will answer in full later. You asked if a non-black could practice Voodoo. Based on what I’ve just said, the answer *must* be “yes.” Of course, one cannot be a Haitian Voodooist (or Voodooisant) unless one is, in fact, Haitian. (I’ll discuss New Orleans Haitian Voodoo soon.) The connection between the people of Haiti, its historical politics, its government and local officials, and its religion is strong.[3] Nonetheless, given the variety of Voodoo sects, we have to acknowledge that not all of their adherents are the same race.

Hoodoo, the way I have come to understand it, is not a religion per se. As a matter of fact, most hoodoos are Christian and regularly incorporate Biblical passages into Workings. Rather, hoodoo is a set of practices based on folk magics from many cultures. These cultures include: multiple ATRs, multiple Southeastern NATP (Native American Tribal Practices) – especially Cherokee –and (believe it or not) white European traditions like those brought over with the Pennsylvania Dutch hexmeisters, Scots-Irish herbalists and midwives, and Germanic occult practices. If you want more information, I recommend Hoodoo in Theory and Practice: An Introduction to African-American Rootwork by Catherine Yronwode,[4] the most recognized author in American Hoodoo. Part of her work explains:

Hoodoo consists of a large body of African folkloric practices and beliefs with a considerable admixture of American Indian botanical knowledge and European folklore. Although most of its adherents are black, contrary to popular opinion, it has always been practiced by both whites and blacks in America. (“Hoodoo, Conjure, and Rootwork: Definition of Terms”)

This makes sense the more I learn. For instance, The Bad Witch loves etymology. The origin of a word can tell you everything you need to know about a concept; or it can point you away from long-held misunderstandings about a concept. The etymology of hoodoo surprised me. Of course, hoodoo can be used as a verb, a noun referring to the practice, a noun referring to the practitioner, or an adjective. But while most dictionaries link hoodoo to voodoo, I found that the word hoodoo enters the American language in 1875, just before conjure comes to be used as a synonym for hoodoo in 1889.[5] So a connection between hoodoo and voodoo doesn’t make any sense, and is likely why the connection is disregarded by linguistic researchers. For example, Daniel Cassidy, author of How the Irish Invented Slang: The Secret Language of the Crossroads (CounterPunch Books and AK Press. July 2007), hoodoo is actually connected more clearly to the Gaelic, Uath Dubh, which is pronounced hoo doo.[6] So, it sounds to me that hoodoo is intended for anyone at all – but seems to have originated in Appalachia.[7] Hoodoo is also directly connected with and alternately referred to as “conjuration.” To conjure is both to summon and to influence. In the form of influencing, this is nothing more than basic Witchcraft. In the form of summoning, this is a little more like Sorcery. In my next post, I’ll talk about the difference between Goetia and Theurgy. This will, I hope, flesh in issues of Hoodoo conjure.

Also, as I understand it, hoodoo is non-hierarchical and non-initiatory. Whereas Haitian Voodoo adheres to a strict code of initiation, “couche,” and formal training (again, see Filan for the politics of the situation), hoodoo does not. This is likely where Louisiana or New Orleans Voodoo comes in. NOLA Voodoo is formally initiatory and prospective hoguns and mambos are expected to go to Haiti or Africa for initiation. I met one man in NOLA who claimed to be an authentically initiated Voodoo hogun; he was white. So it seems that whites can, in fact be Haitian initiated Voodooists. But, I have also heard that there are scammers in NOLA who claim to be trained or initiated in Africa, but are not. And I have heard that there are scammers in Africa who charge exorbitant amounts to conduct initiations for Americans, initiations that are not officially recognized by native practitioners. The lineage of white Voodoo “leaders” is often suspect – whether this suspicion is founded or not.

Most of the scholarship I look at argues that because Voodoo was a way for African-Americans to have a measure of influence over whites, they would have never conferred legitimate power on someone without any African lineage. But, this contradicts what I know: Mambo Sallie Ann Glassman is Jewish/Ukrainian, right? And only three (?) of the Mambos on the Haunted New Orleans “top ten” list (however valid that is) are black.

I am, admittedly befuddled on this subject. And we can’t really take anecdotal evidence here, considering the possibility of scams, now can we? Can anyone offer clarification?

To address your question of the origins of power, my understanding is that hoodoo attributes magical acts to personal power and to the natural properties of herbs, roots, minerals, etc.[8] As for a pantheon? Because hoodoos tend to be Christian and not Pagan, I would imagine that Jehovah is a viable supreme God; but because hoodoo is not a religion, but a practice, it seems to me that you should be able to Work within any religion that did not contradict hoodoo. There is also at least one commonly recognized African deity; known as Legba (aka Nbumba, Nzila, Ellegua, and Eshu), he is the “dark man” one can meet at the crossroads. As the keeper of the gate between life and death, a trickster, he seems to be more like the Pagan Devil than Biblical Satan. Where hoodoo connects the idea of “sin” and “evil” is beyond me at the moment. I do get the impression that death and hell are not nearly as terrifying as they are in many other Christian systems. And it also seems to me that it is not necessary to be a Christian to practice hoodoo.

The same goes for sorcery – which I’ll address tomorrow!

Thanks for hanging in there!

TBW


[1] And when I say “ATR-based,” it is with the realization that “Voudon” is historically (whether accurately or not, I haven’t checked the sources) to Nigeria and Dahomey. Yorùbá comes from, well, Yoruba. Both of these are the more recognized stem-religions from which most ATR-based traditions, like Palo, Congo, and Bantu, branch.

[2] And if you are not, there are two films I recommend: The Divine Horseman: The Living Gods of Haiti, based on Maya Deren’s work between 1947 and 1954 – so long as you promise to take it in a historical context – and Buying the Spirit, by Journeyman Pictures (2003).

[3] If you are interested in this topic, I *highly* recommend The Haitian Vodou Handbook: Protocols for Riding with the Lwa by Kenaz Filan (Destiny Books, 2006).

[4] I have been instructed to read it in its entirety by Maman Lee. It’s truly fascinating. Yronwode explains the admixtures of of not only ATR, NATP, and European occult practices as mentioned above, but she also discusses Middle-Eastern (Kabbalist and Judeo-Christian) and Eastern (Hindu and Taoist/Buddhist) influences on Hoodoo. Some really cool and well-documented stuff.

[5] Oxford English Dictionary. “Hoodoo,” n and adj , 1; “Conjure,” n, 3.

[6] Uath Dubh means:

Dark specter, evil phantom, a malevolent thing; horror, dread; a dark, spiky, evil-looking thing. Uath, (pron. voo) n., a form or shape; a spectre or phantom; dread, terror, hate. . . . Dubh, (pron. doo), adj., dark; black; malevolent, evil; wicked; angry, sinister; gloomy, melancholy; strange, unknown. (O’Donaill, Niall and Patrick Stephen Dinneen. Focloir Gaeilge-Bearla/Irish-English Dictionary. de Bhaldraithe, Tomás. English-Irish Dictionary. Dwelly, Edward. Faclair Gàidhlig gu Beurla le Dealbhan/The Illustrated [Scottish] Gaelic- English Dictionary)

[7] By the way, there is a newfound interest in a thing referred to as “Granny Magic.” I was very keen on the concept, but the more I read the more I think it is misrepresented. Maybe I’ll tackle that later. Maybe in answer to the new question you posed!

[8] This doesn’t contradict my earlier statement that I believe power comes from the Creator. In panetheistic views, the Creator is always already immanent in all of Creation. So, cool.

Q&A With The Road Less Traveled: Part I

This one is for The Road Less Traveled who posed some questions after my “Interview With Maman Lee.” I’m going to have to break this down a bit since no one really wants to read an article length blog post! Plus, I rekon having this in my scholarly voice instead of the Badness you’ve all grown to know and love, will make the ride a little different road.

Let me take a minute up front to thank you for the intricately detailed and elegant set of questions you’ve posed for me. I have been modestly berating myself for working more on “fun” projects then getting to the framework of my research (I have over 27,000 words of the “innards” but none of the (sometimes tedious to develop) super-structure. Thanks to your prod in the right direction, I have churned out these posts and about 30 more pages of a much-needed exoskeleton, thereby freeing me up to dedicate the weekend to research. Being encouraged by this headway has renewed my attentiveness to the project. So, thanks.

Bear in mind that I am not Haitian, nor am I descended from Haitians; I am not a Voodooist (initiated or otherwise). I make no claims to proficiency, expertise, or secret knowledge. But I will do my best to make a response based in logic and research. Also bear in mind that in our fields there are varying opinions, to say the least. The only reason I venture to address these topics is because I was asked to, not because I feel a need to create some sort of standardization among those opinions. What follows is simply my scholarly “take” on the questions at hand.

For instance, some folks lump Witchcraft and Wicca together and have good reasons for doing so. Ethan Doyle White, for one, argues that because of “common use,” we should not differentiate between initiates of Traditional Wicca and eclectic practitioners who refer to their practices as “Wiccan” (“The Meaning of “Wicca”: A Study in Etymology, History and Pagan Politics”. The Pomegranate: The International Journal of Pagan Studies 12 (2): Feb. 2011, 185–207). I happen to disagree. This does not diminish White’s claims or his argument. It simply means that, as a scholar, I can accept his argument as valuable while still holding to my own rationale.

Like my daddy says, “Just ‘cuz them beans give me gas don’t mean no one should eat’em.”

OK, maybe it’s not just like that but still.

This segues well into the first set of questions.

The first half of the first question TRLT asks is:

What exactly is the main difference between European Witchcraft, sorcery, and Hoodoo? Aren’t they all different forms of magic? Is there difference simply the way people who practice these different systems do things?

This is laden with many questions so let me parse them out as best I can. (I’ll address the second half of that question and questions 2-3 as we go along this week. Maybe even ending on a PBP post – what is it this week? Still R?)

As for the difference between European Witchcraft, Sorcery, and Hoodoo, there is a basic difference in cultural development. First, I must address the multifold differences in European Witchcraft alone. Not only are there differences in folk-ways across the continent, there is a distinct difference between folk magics and Wiccan-based crafts. European Witchcraft is not a homogenous model. In itself, the multifaceted set of traditions contains a number of divergent cultures. Both Norway and Italy are in Europe, yet the Vǫlur’s practice of seiðr, in the form or galdr and other shamanic practices is very different from the folk magics of, say, Sardinia. Further, today’s vala and gyda will have very different practices (based on access, technology, laws, and cultural necessity) than their ancient ancestors. What’s more, practices in Italy itself can vary greatly from the mainland to the islands.

As for the variances of traditions based on Wicca, consider Stregheria (Italy). While I have not studied Grimassi’s tradition[1] (1970s) in detail, I know that it is founded on Gardnarian paradigms. Though  Leo Martello was the first recognized author to claim an Italian “family tradition” of Witchcraft (Witchcraft: The Old Religion. 1970), Grimassi popularized the “Aradian Tradition,” inspired by English author, Charles Leland’s,  Aradia, Gospel of the Witches (1899), a literary translation of Italian folklore combined with Leland’s characteristic narrative style. Here, Leland blends Roman mythoi with Middle-Eastern apologues to create a foundation for Mediterranean system – which was then adopted as a Celtic underpinning.

Likewise Buckland’s reimagination of Pictish Craft.[2] Because we have little or nothing left of the insulated Pictish people, subjects of cultural absorption and genocide and without an extensive written culture, we have no way of authenticating the recovery of their craft. However, I am of the mind that there is no historical evidence to believe that PectiWita and Gardnerian Wicca (considering the relentless Roman invasions and ensuing cultural changes) would have anything in common at all.

The opinion one has about “European Witchcraft,” it seems to me, hinges upon one’s opinion of Gardnerian British Traditional Witchcraft and the ensuing conglomeration of neo-Pagan Reconstruction movements. Those who agree that Gardnerian Wicca, and those that emulated it, are derived from uninterrupted (or even authentically recovered) customs, methods, and mythologies reaching back to antiquity will be of a mind that is very different from the opinion of those who believe that Gardner borrowed  heavily from Crowley and The Golden Dawn to recreate a manufactured tradition (perhaps driven by his desire to have extramarital sex). Of course, I don’t want to represent a falsehood here – there are opinions in between.[3]

Like mine.

I’ve mentioned a few in these posts: (“It Must Be. . .Wikipedia,” “ Dead Horses . . .,” and “Wannabethans” – likely others as well).

And then again, there is a sizable difference between Wicca as an initiatory system and Wicca as an eclectic set of practices. Initiatory Wicca, limited to a select number of vetted lineages, is not even the same as Wicca which does not have its foundation in one of these lines. Also see here.

It’s a lot like apostolic succession for the Papacy.

Of course, we should recognize solitaries and eclectics who choose to refer to their practice as “Wiccan” as legitimate. Some do not. It’s a matter of personal politics. The Bad Witch doesn’t have a dog in that fight.

Of course, there’s the possibility that there is a tradition surviving in Europe that has nothing to do with mainstream “Traditional Witchcraft.” If they exist aside from Teutonic Shamanism, I don’t know anything about them and cannot give you any information.

Being The Bad Gydia, I can tell you that the rituals of seiðr have little or nothing in common with Wicca when it comes to ritual. What is common among them is repetition (of musical chanting of a sort and drumming) to achieve the states of altered consciousness wherein Magic is performed. Other than that, most of the things practiced in contemporary Heathenism are derived from Wicca in effort to be “friendly,” not because they are authentic to Germanic practices.

My opinions regarding these concessions is beside the point.

So to answer whether the “difference [is] simply [in] the way people who practice these different systems do things,” I would say, “yes” and “no.”

The way things are done is certainly different; but nothing I would call simple. The way things are done speaks not just to a practical difference, but to a difference in philosophy.

For instance, in Wicca (and Western European Sorcery) the wand and the athame are decidedly phallic. In many Western Esoteric traditions, the phallus is venerated as the source of creative power.[4] The “wand-carrier” or völva is, by definition, a woman. As a matter of fact, it was expressly forbidden for Norsemen to “assume” female magical powers. This is not to say that they could not practice magic at all, which eventually became the case after the influx of Christianity (it’s very complicated), but that men were forbidden to perform magic. For this reason, I have to believe that the “imagination” of the “source of power for their workings” is different.

In my panentheistic belief system, all power comes from “God” or “The Almighty” or “The Creator” or whatever one calls the supreme and eternal animating force of the cosmos. The issue remains that, even if we all believe this tenet, we may all define this divine presence differently. Exactly where the source of power is derived is above my pay grade.

Alas, I am only qualified to speak to my own belief.

There’s so much more to come.

B, Q, 93 for now – TBW


[1] Grimassi, Raven. The Book of the Holy Strega (1981) and Italian Witchcraft: The Old Religion of Southern Europe, previously titled Ways of the Strega (1994). Consider also Stregheria.com – “The Home of Authentic Italian Witchcraft.”

[2] Buckland, Raymond. Scottish Witchcraft: The History & Magick of the Picts. Llewellyn Worldwide, 1991.

[3] If you are interested in more information, you might look at this one that argues that all of Gardner’s credentials are fabricated. Or this one that offers around 80 (I quit counting) other articles that criticize Wicca, Gardner, and Wiccan Witches – accompanied by  the claim that too many Wiccan initiates censor any and all criticism of their movement. And then there’s this guy (who, I openly admit, I did not watch yet but plan to) who has a four part YouTube criticism of Wicca. While most of the reviewers use unnecessarily crude language, I do not suggest we throw the baby out with the bathwater.

[4] It happens to be one of my main projects to use Norse traditions to recover a system of female power not based in phallic influence (or the “lack” thereof).

The Atrum Traba: Dealing With Particularly Nasty Astral Energy

I’m about to attempt to share with you the development of and use of one of my favorite exorcism tools: The Atra Traba, The Dark Table. (Linguistically, this is a convoluted translation, but one I’m going to stick with for simplicity’s sake. The Darkness to which I refer is plural in nature and refers to the Darkness for which the table is used and not an adjective of the Table itself, so Atrum is appropriate (rather than singular Atra). Traba refers to a plank of wood, not necessarily a “table” – but as most capable practitioners are familiar with the use of The Holy Table of Practice, it is understood that this is not a “table” in the sense of four-legs-and-a-flat-top-at-which-one-sits.)

The purpose of this tool is to collect, call out, and banish (or exorcise) a particularly troublesome energy, entity, elemental, or (shiver) demon. I like to call these Astral Nasties and Etheric Ewies.

Astral Nasties run the gambit of self inflicted energy collections, elemental entities or thoughtforms sent over by the neighborhood Bad Witch (not, of course, yours truly), or demonic energies that have latched onto, gotten sucked into, or become enamored with a humans’ energy. Wherever they’ve come from, they all tend to do the same thing: cause trouble. And they cause trouble in the physical realm as well as the psychic realm. You don’t want to mess around with an Etheric Ewie that has gotten strong enough to shove, to turn electrical appliances on, or to be audible / visible (especially to the non-initiated).

One HUGE problem is that many practitioners believe that a simple “House Cleaning” will get rid of these Nasties. Oh, boys and girls, you will be in for a ride if you try to smudge a real Astral Nasty out of your home.

I rather like WitchVox.com, but often, when it comes to banishing, the attitude seems to be that “one size fits all.” In this (perfectly nice) article, author, Nita, explains how to do a house cleaning spell. Now, for most beasties, this will do just fine. Especially if you are just dealing with some residual ex-husband energy or “getting up in the corners” after a hectic visit from Aunt Sue.

However, this article on home cleansing, found in the most cursory of web searches, and the attitude that seems to spawn such advice, really frightens The Bad Witch (and that’s sayin’ sompthin’). This writer seems to indicate that all one needs is some herbs and oils and a little bit of warm-and-fuzzy to make the Ewie make an exodus. Um, no. Even the best of witches should use extreme caution when dealing with *real* Astral Nasties.

I was very pleased to, in that same cursory web search, find this article, which advises unabashedly that: “This ritual is not designed to handle very intense, negative beings that may fight back, and I wouldn’t recommend it for that. My advice is to find an expert to help you, or a ritual specifically designed and thoroughly tested for just such a problem.”  Very responsible. The Bad Witch approves.

You see, it’s like this.

If you have some leftover crap from a fight you had with the postman or a little depression lingering after a bad financial week, you have a “mini-ew” and you can, perhaps, get rid of the pest for good – easy peasy, like getting rid of a bothersome domesticated dog or something. Yeah, he might come back looking for another free meal, but a firm hand will banish the little doggie for good. Dogs are smart and don’t want to be yelled at. They’ll find someone else to take them in.

Let’s not take this metaphor too far or you might mistakenly think that The Bad Witch is advising you to take that bothersome doggie to a shelter or – worse – adopt it y’own self. Take good care of real stay dogs, sure. This metaphorical pooch  should not be fed of given shelter.  Seriously, I know folks who would (or, unfortunately, have) take in an Astral Nasty as though it were a homeless pup.

Like with stray dogs, Astral Nasties will take a varying level of confidence, experience, and technical know-how to get rid of a mini-ew. Hey, I’ve even seen newbies find success scaring off a mini-ew with no more than a set of well written instructions, a bare-bones tool kit of sage and a well-made oil, and a little tenacity. It’s an energy thing.

However.

Those really ganky Nasties and Ewies are like wild bears (only less sympathetic sometimes). They are looking for the same handout that the doggie is looking for, however, they have you outweighed by about five times, they are far less afraid of you than you are of them, they do not have the desire to please humans that dogs have developed – on account’o bears are wild (“duh,” my very intuitive daughter likes to tell me), and – quite freaking honestly – they have huge paws and teeth.

And they can smell your fear.

A traditional house cleansing or smudging does little more than anesthetize the bear. From my experience, about three days. I don’t know why it’s three days, it just usually is. When that bear wakes up, it’s going to be confused, clumsy, and pissed off.

So, you have done a basic sage-and-chanting house cleansing. And after three days of calm, just when you thought everything was going to be OK,  you suddenly find that you have one effing pissed off bear going through your cabinetry looking for Etheric Snickers. And it’s hungry (coz it’s been asleep for three days) and it’s off-kilter (coz you jazzed it up on a blend of sage and dragon’s blood oil) and it’s mad (coz there’s a tranquilizer dart sticking out its arse).  What do you do now?

What you DON’T do is shoot it with another dart.

My recommendation is that you call someone who knows wtf to do with this bear. Preferably someone versed in exorcism and / or Goetic Arts (a practice where a human actor evokes (i.e. draws out) an entity and projects it into a defined space – such as the Triangle of Art in Solomonic evocation).

If you don’t know or can’t locate said magician, learn what you can in as much time as you can afford about exorcism and Goetic Arts. Once you have the basic gist of the practice, make yourself an Atrum Traba. This is rather like The Triangle of Art and serves as a generic Lamen for those Astral Nasties.

Table of Art

The *real* work is in the “getting ready.” The “doing” of the exorcism seems to fall out from there.

Grab a piece of something solid. I have heard others say that this can be done with a piece of paper and a Sharpie. The Bad Witch is not convinced. Maybe construction paper and crayola work with one of those mini-ew doggies . . .  But, here, I think we need something more durable. We are bear hunting, after all. Grab a flat level of wood, a leftover bathroom tile, a cutting board, a handheld mirror, shoot – grab a dinner plate. “Carve” (with anything from acrylic paint to a Dremmel) a Table of Art.

Faust Manifesting Mephistopheles

The next trick is getting the energy to manifest itself into one unified being. This is the daunting part if you don’t know what you are doing (which is why I recommend you have some help from someone familiar with Goetia and in close conversation with their Agathodaemon).
You, the exorcist at this point, want to be *inside* a sacred circle. (If you don’t know how to do this, you are at the wrong cite and should search elsewhere and then come back. Sorry.) Sweep the entirety of the house or building or grounds and “accumulate” all of the Ewie-Nasty into one place. Command it to “manifest” itself onto the Table of Art. Those who understand Enochian or Goetian – particularly Solomonic – evocation, understand the function of the geometric shapes on the Table. If you don’t understand them, it’s OK, the Astral bear will. Once you have a “plastic” manifestation of the Nasty on your Table, command it’s name. If it was a unified being prior to your conjuration, it will have a name. If it was a conglomeration of beings and it has just become a unified being, this may take a bit longer. Well, this may take a good deal of time either way. Sometimes the Nasties don’t want to leave and, like the entities in Reagan, will toy with you to the extent that you allow them to. Don’t let them toy with you.
At all.
This is a bear, remember?
     How, pray tell, do you get an Astral Nasty to tell you its name, you ask. That, my dears, is a very good question.
    You begin with (yet another) table and a pendulum. This table is easy. I have, in a pinch, used my telephone         keypad. You just need something to display letters or sets of letters (think Ouija board). In a – sometimes painstaking – conversation with the Nasty, you will ask a series of questions in order to obtain it’s name. Like I said above, do NOT let it toy with you. Remind it that it answers to you and that you stand at the center of the (Etheric) cosmos as a representative of the Creator (its Creator). Hopefully you won’t have to resort to threats. If you find yourself expressing a parental tone and counting “1 … 2 … ,” The Bad Witch recommends that you place the entity in a state of stasis as best you can and call for back-up. If no back up is to be found, resort to threats – but be prepared to follow through with full authority. If you frighten easily, this is just not for you. (Go ahead and contact me. I’m here to help.)
Now that you have your Nasty / Ewie / bear in a state of manifestation, and once you know it’s name, banish it. Banish it good. Banish it hard. Mean it. Don’t invite the S.O.B. back. Not even in that small place in the back of your head that likes all of the Astral Drama. (It’s an effing BEAR.) Because if you invite it back – even sort of invite it back -it will come back. With friends. And then? Good luck to ya.
After it’s gone, be sure to close the portal through which you sent it. Silly. And lock it up tight. You are going to need some sleep.
Ground yourself well. Then quit thinking about it. Completely. (This is, indeed, easier said than done.)
A lot of witches will tell you that the best thing to do now is laugh. After all, laughter is a great banisher. This is true. However, The Bad Witch recommends you take it a step further – have a drink and watch something like Mystery Science Theater 3000. Laugh, yes. But laugh in such a way that moves your brain away from the Nasty and away from magic. A return to the banal and mundane physical life is a great sealant for the portal you closed and locked tight.
If the bear breaks your door in again, call animal control. It’s OK to admit that some things are beyond our (current) capacities.
Be safe.
Be blessed.
Be loved.
Blessings, Quarks, and 93,
TBW

Hush, Hush

The very first lesson that I share with my students is the importance of silence.

Of course, we don’t literally set fire to witches anymore but I have known plenty of people who have been burned by the judgment or ridicule of others. So, there is a very “real world” reason to maintain silence and anonymity. This doesn’t mean that I support hypocrisy. If someone asks me what my religious beliefs are, I tell them. However, I do not advertise. I also regularly wear a silver pentagram or an eternal Goddess pendant. Both are subtle enough to identify me only to those who understand the symbols. I encourage my students to do likewise inasmuch as they are comfortable. I live in the Deep South. I know that one can loose one’s job because of one’s religious beliefs and have little to no legal recourse. Court judges often rule according to their religious beliefs; and they do so openly. It isn’t Constitutional, but it happens.

Aside from avoiding judgment, both in and out of the courtroom, there are other reasons to maintain silence. Many practitioners will tell you that they maintain a practice of silence to protect a coven secret or rite. This is all very appropriate and should be respected.

More importantly, I think, a reason to keep silent involves the nature of magic and of spoken language. For me, to speak is to conjure. Derrida and Lacan knew this. Power resides with those who control language. We can subvert language and we can evolve language, but we only do this because it is language that gives us power. Most popular representations of the magician involves a “magic word”: think of Disney’s many magical characters, the Harry Potter series, “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves,” and almost any TV show or movie involving witchcraft (I particularly remember “Shazam” from the 1970s).

If quantum physics is your thing, a reason to keep silent is to refrain from collapsing the wave.[1] The universe is full of incongruities; all of our natural laws have exceptions. This too is a Mystery. For this example, consider the way a wave is immeasurable. Attempt to confine it to measurement and it collapses. Likewise, if you attempt to contain will to word, it is limited by measurement and also collapses. Language is always insufficient. Therefore there will always be “that which cannot be told.”

Another reason to maintain silence is that one of our basic doxologies is “To Know, To Dare, To Will, To Keep Silent.” This, a statement pre-dating the sphinx, is one of the Keys to The Great Mysteries.[2]

We say that to be the magus, we must “know” what must be done, we must control our “will” in action, we must “do” what is required, and we must “keep silent” with wisdom.

  • We must always exercise control over ourselves, over our will.
  • If we do not know, we must learn.
  • If we do not know, it is foolish to dangerous to dare.
  • Likewise, if we do not know, to exert our will power is both exhausting and maddening.
  • In order to dare, we must have the will.
  • It is always appropriate to keep silent.

Some practitioners believe that speaking a thing changes it. Like the wave function collapse explained above, many believe that confinement to spoken language can “ruin” a spell. This is not to say that language is not used for spell-crafting. But in the instance of casting, language is used in conjunction with the will. This makes the words carry the will rather than the literal meaning of the word. Yes, this is a Mystery. But if we are in causal conversation without the power of will, we are lessening the power of the spell.

Some practitioners believe that speaking a thing makes it so and will never talk of magical affairs without first casting a protective circle. Whenever two or more witches are together and start talking about magic, for fear of “drive by” casting, you are likely to find one who will insist on some witchy prophylaxis. Words are thoughts and thoughts are things. We create every time we speak.

I believe all of these things and then some. For so many reason, I encourage you to keep your silence. Protect it. Nurture it. Enshroud it. It is always possible to reveal a thing – it is almost impossible to re-conceal it. As they say, you can’t un-ring a bell.


[1] I won’t pretend to be a physicist. While I understand the concept of wave function collapse, my understanding is so tenuous that I dare not try to put it in lay terms. While there are a number of more complex explanations available on the web, I recommend looking at the issues involving Schrödinger’s Cat as well as this simple explanation on Yahoo! Answers. http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20100523160818AA1Hfdz

[2] What are the Great Mysteries, you ask? This refers to any number of Mystery religions that involve a sort of “initiation.” The word “Mystery” translates to “secret rite or doctrine.” Therefore, one who practiced “Mysteries” is referred to as a “mystic.” The specifics of these religions are kept “behind closed doors,” or “secret.”

 

Welcome to The Bad Witch Files

Too many solitaries are out there, cautiously and carefully picking their path, casting and writing and collecting, going it alone, wishing there was someone to lend a broom handle. Some are gloriously finding their way, some are mucking it up. Those who are like I was, are doing a little of both.

If you find yourself wishing that there was some way to have a mentor without joining a coven or coven-like group, this blog is for you. My affinities are for formal, esoteric, Western mystery traditions, but I tend to teach the most basic “earth” magic to beginners. I like to tease that I don’t think “chaos” is a four letter word (but the humor embedded in that joke is typically overlooked). But I also encourage a straightforward path to those new to The Craft. If you want to study Thelema or Theurgy, I’m your gal. But only after you’ve learned to walk the walk.

Occasionally I will post various levels of training lessons: initiate, novice, and adept. Beyond these, you are welcome to contact me.

This is how it will work.  I will post weekly lessons alternating novice / adept / novice / adept. As situations arise, I will post reflections and commentary. You will be able to sort through the posts by using the categories to your right.

 

You should visit Open Path Sanctuary at OPSTemplumGnostica.webs.com for training options.

You are welcome to email me (abadwitch@yahoo.com) for one-on-one instruction – within reasonable limits.  If I can’t help you, chances are, I have a contact who can.

 

To be clear, I am not building a coven. I am not Wiccan and cannot grant degrees in Wicca. I practice and teach eclectic witchcraft, and I practice a little more (ok, a lot more) “hard-core” than I teach.

This has become a labor of love. My profile will tell you, “I was reminded that one of the obligations of a High Priestess is to record knowledge suitable for dissemination.” This blog is my service to the Craft. Here, I fulfill my obligation to record and disseminate knowledge. It is also the connection between you and me, teacher and student. For whatever reason, you are ready just at the time that I have decided to break out of my solitary shell and start teaching. Online, no less! There are no accidents.

As I said in “The Bad Witch at the Watering Hole,” my introductory blog:

When you are going it alone, the trouble comes when you don’t have someone to tell you what *not* to do. I figure that there are plenty of books out there to show you how to cast, how to write spells, how to fire sigles, how to call the quarters, and how to celebrate Beltane (with your clothes both on and off). But aside from the obligatory, “harm none,” there seems to be no one willing to record the flipside of magic.

Initiates: If you would like to be initiated in person, we can make arrangements; I live in the North American Southeast, about an hour from Atlanta, GA.

Novice: If you would like to serve your year-and-a-day apprenticeship with me via Open Path, you may contact me through email (abadwitch@yahoo.com). Know that I only accept students above the age of consent in their state, but if you are between thirteen and eighteen and your parent/guardian consents, I am willing to work with you after some consultation.

Adept: If you have already been initiated (self or otherwise) and have been practicing for more than a year, there will be intermediate instruction for you. You are welcome to email me (abadwitch@yahoo.com) for instructions.

Beyond: If you are a practicing solitary and have reached an adept level and you want someone to bounce ideas around with, or if you simply want to expand your knowledge of the Craft, there will be both reflective and informational posts for you as well. I don’t feel as if a Witch who has been practicing long enough to consider himself or herself an adept needs the kind of instruction I feel comfortable posting on the world-wide web. But, you are always welcome to contact me (abadwitch@yahoo.com) with individual questions. If I can’t help you, chances are, I have a contact who can.

Now, if you require my services, that may be a different story depending on the task. Once we get to know each other a little, I will craft general spells or specific spells for you to cast on your own; but I will also cast for you. I’m good. I know I said I’m a Bad Witch, but I’m very good at it. My spells work. I will do tarot readings, astrological readings, and psychic readings (my forte) via email. I’m not a charlatan; I have a “day job” and I don’t charge more than the materials cost –  unless you ask for something extensive. Then I simply ask for a donation (in an amount at your discretion) for my time and energy. You should contact me through email (abadwitch@yahoo.com) to make arrangements.

You can also go to The Wyrd Sister page linked here and above.

Until next time, blessings, quarks, and 93!

The Bad Witch at The Watering Hole

Image from Travelers Insurance commercial, "At the Watering Hole" (2010).

Have you seen the Travelers Insurance commercial, “At the Watering Hole,” where all of the creatures of the Savannah “get along”? It’s supposed to be cute and, I suppose, comforting; but it’s actually unnatural and a little creepy. Imagine The Grasslands overflowing with meerkats, gazelle, and water buffalo. Imagine what the world would be like without any predators.

Imagine what day would be like without night. Sure, there are places like Northern Alaska, “The Land of the Midnight Sun,” where the sun shines from May to August. But this light is balanced by an equal amount of darkness on the other half of the year’s wheel.

Imagine what biology would be like without cell death.

Imagine what magic would be like without destruction. Imagine if all the energy we cast out was “good” or if all light was “white.”

But I am remiss.

Please allow me to introduce myself.

I am The Bad Witch.

By “bad,” I do not mean poor or ineffectual. Oh, no. I am very effectual. Sometimes to my own dumbfounding. Neither do I mean “evil.” I have a moral compass, however broken it may seem. I have a clear set of criteria for spell-work and I rarely cast intoxicated. That I can recall.

What I do mean by “bad” is that I may walk a little to the left-hand path. While I’m no Lovecraftian or Satanist, I do appreciate the dark as it so beautifully compliments the light. I am not afraid to cast a binding on a neighborhood creeper; I have no qualms about asking for justice; and I have been know to conjure a boogyman to make someone mindful of dangerous behavior. Especially when it’s me and mine who are in danger. So, while I stay in the middle of the road for the most part and I try to keep my work on the up-an-up, if a raging sense of protectiveness overwhelms me, I will get down and dirty. And I have no problem allowing a willing “dark” entity to help me out. I’m no bigot when it comes to help offered. In the end, I do not consider witchcraft appropriate for the “nice.” There are other branches of Pagainism for that.

So, yes, I am a bad witch. I’m no Glinda. But if I make an oath to you, unless you break it first (and then woe unto you every Tuesday for a year), I’m bound to you for life. I take it very seriously.

I say this because many of the witches I know are oath breakers. Some by word, some by deed, most by breaking silence. I don’t believe that you, reader, are an oath breaker. But, then again, I do not know you. Do I? You could be the Valmont of your coven, for all I know.

I don’t intend to give instruction on oath breaking; that is to say, I don’t intend for this to be a “how-to” for the treacherous. I figure you’ve got that covered without my help. The point of this blog is to provide, by example, instruction concerning the “why not to” of oath-breaking. Especially if you, like so many, have no teacher or mentor. When you are going it alone, the trouble comes when you don’t have someone to tell you what *not* to do. I figure that there are plenty of books out there to show you how to cast, how to write spells, how to fire sigles, how to call the quarters, and how to celebrate Beltane (with your clothes both on and off). But aside from the obligatory, “harm none,” there seems to be no one willing to record the flipside of magic. And if, as witches, we believe in balance, we must believe in the ever-present-staring-you-in-the-face-the-moment-you-realize-you-should-have-thought-that-through-a-little-better flipside.

This may be because we have, up until now, been trying to propagate the Craft. We have been trying to instruct and we do not want to frighten our would-be pupils away. This may be that we do not want to fuel the fires of anti-Pagan sentiment in the U.S. We do not want to provide any ammunition to those already armed to the teeth against us. It may even be that to tell how a spell went wrong, you might have to tell how the spell was composed and would therefore break silence. Because this is not really a spellbook, I will not be recording whole spells. I will give enough information for you to comprehend the situation without telling you everything. If you are versed in the mysteries, you’ll know exactly what happened without my telling you. If you are not yet initiated, it is not my place to fill you in.

I have sat on the sidelines of many a magical FUBAR (and have, admittedly, been embroiled in a few) and I hope to regal you with a few hours of horrific, if not entertaining, stories about what can go wrong when you are reckless with witchcraft. I’ve known witches who cast carelessly and flagrantly (I call this “driveby casting”), those who betray coven members, those who lie – even in ritual – even to themselves, and those with whom no secret is safe. Sounds like any society, right?  I’ll tell you all of these stories in good time, mind you, but you must realize upfront that an oath-breaking witch is not the same as a snarky eleventh-grader. There are universal penalties to oath breaking. Not that I’m being judgmental. I’ve cast and had stuff backfire all over me like pea soup on Linda Blair’s bedsheets. But I try to own up to it. I try to understand what I did and how to prevent it from happening again. (Sometimes successfully!)  I am, after all, the “Bad Witch” indicated in the title of this blog. Which brings me to a point of semantics.

I do not consider the recording and publication of this blog a broken oath. For two reasons. First, I tell only what is mine tell, I will reveal nothing which is an oath-bound mystery. Much of what I will include has already been scavenged by popular media; T.V. and movies like “Charmed,” “The Witches of Waverly Place,” The Craft and Practical Magic (not to mention Anne Rice) have given the world a glimpse into our world, even if it is a strangely eschewed one. These are, of course, fictions. Second, I reserve the right to a spot near, if not on, the fiction shelf myself. Oh, all I’m about to tell you is true enough. But some stories can only be told by poioumena, metaphor, or allegory. In the words of Ken Kesey, “It’s the truth even if it didn’t happen.” We say that the mysteries are “that which cannot be told” don’t we?

Pleased to meet you.