Black as Midnight, Black as Pitch. . .
October 19, 2016 8:49 AM   Subscribe

This makes me want to read Alex Mar's Witches of America book (discussed in the "American Witches" link). I've never personally felt the appeal of witchcraft as a practice or subculture; these articles make me curious to learn more from/about folks who do.
posted by Gerald Bostock at 11:24 AM on October 19, 2016

These are good, thank you! This is what's stayed with me from Wiccan friends too (in the "Atheist Witches" link):
Many Wiccans follow higher powers — Goddesses and Gods — which we can call on for support and healing. Many of us also believe that power lives in our environment, in nature and in ourselves. And just as we’re encouraged to care for nature and our surrounds, we’re encouraged to take care of ourselves — something many of us struggle to do. Treating yourself with the respect and love a deity deserves is a revolutionary concept.
posted by fraula at 11:51 AM on October 19, 2016 [5 favorites]

Yes, thank you! I got familiar with the recent surge of new witchcraft by coincidentally having a lot of young, queer Jewish internet-friends. I'll have to reach out to one of them to add to the "let's talk about witches" section. To be honest, it just totally makes sense to me-there's a long history of jewish mysticism, and queer and lesbian youth have been drifting towards witchy spaces since before I was born.

I used to be into the hippy christian woo, back in high school when I hung around in religious social justice circles (local catholic worker chapter). I miss meditating, I miss connecting with the "divine" through nature, I miss my pendants and rituals and tiny shrines hidden away in my bedside drawer.

I've been thinking about returning to some of those more comforting habits. Of devoting my time to worshipping female heroes through silent reading and meditation. My headspace is just a better place to be when I take time to make it soft and appreciate people i look up to.

Anyway, thank you Kitty Stardust. I'll be looking more into this, definitely. If anyone comes across this and wants to give some tips to someone new, please let me know! Or, if you're new and want to hold hands, let's do it.
posted by FirstMateKate at 12:05 PM on October 19, 2016 [5 favorites]

About a year ago, I revisited the witchiness of my high school days circa 1998 (yes, I had that Silver RavenWolf book and a few others). Back then I was very Wiccan; now, I'm more eclectic. Then there was more worship, now there's more witchcraft. But I remember very clearly that I started out afraid of my body and my nakedness and of seeing myself nude and of touching myself, and through Wicca, I started to see myself as a reflection of deity. It was really good for me. And I never really disavowed it, but just drifted away from it. I kept the pentacle I had then in my jewelry box because I thought I might come back.

And I have; I got interested again last year and celebrated Midsummer 2015 for the first time in half a life, and grew more and more fascinated with ritual and placebo and confirmation bias and power and nature. I love to play with these things and I think that humans have a fantastic ability to connect with ritual. I am back to being as witchy as I ever was and then some. It's fun and humbling and sometimes silly and often empowering, and I love learning lore and making teas and doing spells and learning the tarot. I can channel all my anger and anxiety and fear into a ritual about the presidential debate. I can make a technopagan spell on Tumblr for [a ridiculous number of!] people to reblog. I can look up at the moon and feel like everything is falling into place.

I hope the young witches today don't fall away from this like I did, but if they do, I hope they come back like I did. The moon pulls the tides. Keep that pentacle in your jewelry box, you might want it again.
posted by fiercecupcake at 12:51 PM on October 19, 2016 [10 favorites]

Alex Mar's book is a really poor overview of the field in a lot of ways: it's much more about her personal experience. (Of the four groups she primarily focuses on in the book, only one and a half are witchcraft focused.)

And in the process, she's really careless about other people's privacy, including identifying information about people at private events, details of other people's personal lives, etc. In interviews, she's said she cleared stuff before publication: the (several) people I know who are in the book whose info is included were never so contacted. Reviews from outside the Pagan community (mainstream media sources) were pretty good, but a lot of people from within the community found a lot of the book to be actively a problem in multiple directions. (I am glad to pass on links to roundups if people MeMail.)

For other books that do a better job at diversity of belief within the witchcraft community, there's Margot Adler's classic Drawing Down the Moon (written in 1979, and with a couple of later revisions, so more useful as a historical piece), Chas Clifton's Her Hidden Children (an overview of developments in the United States, specifically), or Christine Wicker's 2005 Not in Kansas Anymore which I found a lot more respectful of people's practices and experiences, while having good diversity of different paths, practices, etc.
posted by modernhypatia at 12:53 PM on October 19, 2016 [8 favorites]

And you know, I stopped doing "rituals," but I never stopped doing rituals: putting the morning dew on my face May Day morning, eating a pomegranate on the first day that feels like fall, burning away secrets and bad memories New Year's Eve. But I rededicated myself to it as a continuous way of living, and now I can feel a little more magic in my life.

FirstMateKate, feel free to drop me a note any time.
posted by fiercecupcake at 3:34 PM on October 19, 2016 [4 favorites]

My daughter has a friend, slightly older, who likes to needle her with witchy stuff. Promising to do a spell to turn her into a cat (my kid was 6, other kid was 8, the boundaries of belief were still shimmery) and one walk to school my kid asked me about it. She was astonished that I know witches, of various kinds, and we talked about what witchcraft is. I relied strongly on Granny Weatherwax, I won't lie. I don't know enough about my friends' practices to use them as proper examples, and I barely do anything beyond what Weatherwax calls 'headology' so I just used that as an example of what I think witchcraft is: rituals and intent, shifting yourself as much as the world.

it seemed to satisfy my kid, and she shut down the baby witch at school from what I can gather, and now said kid keeps her distance.
posted by geek anachronism at 5:32 PM on October 19, 2016 [3 favorites]

If we're starting a Metafilter witch coven, can I join? Not even kidding. I definitely went through a witch phase in the 90s during middle school where I tried to cast spells on my classmates. (Somehow missed The Craft though - I would have been at peak witch when it came out but managed to never see it. And alas, our library does not seem to have a copy.)

But I've been thinking a lot about witches in the last six months. I know they're having a bit of a cultural resurgence but I'm also hitting a point in my life - entering my mid-30s in a couple days, married but not going to have kids, lost my two best female friends in the past few years - where I spend a lot of time thinking about what kind of woman I am and what kind of woman I want to be, especially compared to the kind of woman our culture tells me I should be. And I find myself looking for other models of comprehending the world and other ways of thinking. Honestly, this is going to sound silly, but part of it was watching that movie "The Witch" that came out last year. I was totally fascinated by it and the way everyone was so terrified of Thomasin. And at the end when she (spoilers!) makes a literal deal with the devil and goes off into the woods and finds her coven, it just looked... like so much fun. The idea is incredibly appealing to me.

A friend of mine recently bought me a tarot deck, which is something I used to mess around with in high school. I don't think it can tell the future but I find it useful for providing me with new ways of thinking and meditating about things, and it's already helped me come to some decisions about things in my life. I've always had a pretty strong aversion to what lots of people consider "woo", and I'm finding myself reconsidering some of it. I'm interested in introducing rituals into my life, and finding new ways to observe and recognize the phases of the year and the passage of time, and how all of this ties into self-care.

So basically if we're starting a coven, I'm in. #toowitches
posted by skycrashesdown at 8:32 PM on October 19, 2016 [12 favorites]

I miss my old pagan friends so bad reading this. I would also be in on an online coven.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:29 PM on October 19, 2016 [3 favorites]

I miss the toast #toowitches
posted by (Over) Thinking at 3:32 AM on October 20, 2016 [4 favorites]

I think The Craft is still on Netflix instant? My little Easy-Bake Coven and I watched it a couple months ago there.
posted by fiercecupcake at 6:55 AM on October 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

Long-term Goddess-worshipping Wiccan witch here. It's fascinating to me that the image of witches seems to be making a cultural resurgence now -- it would not have been possible for me to detect that myself due to my selective media habits.

But I found it a little ... disappointing? ... that the linked articles really do focus on the image of the witch, almost as a fashion or lifestyle statement. The one type of Witch missing from the list in the post was the honest-to-goodness religious Goddess-worshipping Witch (and I include both eclectics and initiates of British Traditional Witchcraft in this category).
posted by heatherlogan at 8:29 AM on October 20, 2016 [4 favorites]

Yes, it's really the moment for the witch as a cultural symbol, not for real religious witchcraft. I'd love to know more about the styles and philosophies of modern witchcraft ala Drawing Down the Moon. Wicca seems to have had more visibility about 10-15 years ago when it could be discussed in kind of sensational terms. Social interest has kind of petered out, but I think the religious practices have evolved thanks to the internet. Does anyone know of any sources that address this?

Oh, I'm in on the coven, BTW. #toowitches
posted by Kitty Stardust at 1:39 PM on October 20, 2016 [3 favorites]

I'm in for the coven too. :)

I was involved in the community from the mid-90s until about 2003, and then dropped out / went solitary / stopped doing regular rituals for about 10 years (partly because I moved cities and suddenly didn't know any Pagans). I got reinvolved about three years ago (kind of similar to fiercecupcake), started doing my own circles regularly again, sought out the local community, started a monthly pagan meet-up at my university, and joined an Alexandrian coven about 6 months ago. Couldn't be happier!

In fact I saw The Craft for the first time less than a week ago, on a transatlantic Air Canada flight. It was quite a bit better than I'd expected, aside from the snakesploitation and the fact that the writers couldn't bring themselves to acknowledge the Goddess (they came so close and then referred to that power as "he"??).

It occurs to me that the fact that The Craft was available on an airplane supports the cultural resurgence hypothesis. This is actually pretty exciting.
posted by heatherlogan at 2:28 PM on October 20, 2016 [2 favorites]

Maybe this is a better Metatalk question but if I wanted to start a group/place for us to talk about this stuff, what would be the best venue? If it was just my friends and me I'd use Facebook, but I know not everybody is on there.
posted by skycrashesdown at 8:25 PM on October 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

What about Google Hangouts for the Too Witches MeFi Coven/Discussion Group/Village Green Preservation Society? ;]
I hate Facebook... I haven't used Slack but apparently a bunch of people like that too?

I'm really enjoying reading Not In Kansas Anymore, but that was published in 2005(?), so still not exactly up to date.
posted by fiercecupcake at 7:05 AM on October 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

Ok, I googled the Too Witches meme. Apparently I was #tooluddite to know about it.

I've read Chas Clifton's book Her Hidden Children and found it an excellent North American complement to Ronald Hutton's The Triumph of the Moon. It came out in 2005, so still a decade ago. I also liked Introducing Thealogy by Melissa Raphael, published in 2000, which has only one chapter on witchcraft specifically and again is 16 years old, but looks from a different angle at a topic close to my heart.

As for more recent overviews of the community, I don't know of anything. I've started reading the daily group blog / Pagan news outlet The Wild Hunt and occasionally some of the blogs on the Patheos Pagan channel (warning: bloatware). There's also PaganSquare (or Witches and Pagans), which is partly the online successor to Sage Woman magazine, which I don't read but probably should.

The impression that I've picked up from these is that the main change in the Pagan community since the end of the '90s has been the rise in visibility of the reconstructionist polytheists -- Norse/Saxon (also called Heathen), Hellenic (classical Greek), and Kemetic (Egyptian). Some of the Heathens are [known as] Asatru which I remember from the '90s but they are generally a lot more respectable now. These groups call a lot of attention to themselves on the internet (sometimes slagging Wicca in the process for somehow oppressing them) but I don't think they are very prevalent -- I have personally met only two individuals (one northern-France Heathen and one Kemetic). I don't think the polytheists consider themselves witches in general.
posted by heatherlogan at 6:44 AM on October 22, 2016 [2 favorites]

Look and you will find... Here is an essay on Witchcraft from the Outside by Druid blogger Nimue Brown about recent developments in witchcraft (possibly British perspective).
posted by heatherlogan at 10:42 AM on October 22, 2016 [3 favorites]

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