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Tea with Dates

There are all sorts of different views on what "traditional" witchcraft actually is or how long ago it started. I tend to begin with the Michael Howard view that it is "any non-Gardnerian, non-Alexandrian, non-Wiccan or pre-modern form of the Craft, especially if it has been inspired by historical forms of witchcraft and folk magic." (From his book Children of Cain: A Study of Modern Traditional Witches published by Three Hands Press, 2011.) I believe it is important to understand this definition (whether Howard meant it this way or not) to include all world cultures and to understand that witchcraft is older and broader than a lot of (mostly) white male authors would have us believe. In short, "traditional" should not equate with whiteness. Do your research, be aware of your own privilege as you move along your path and know the history of it—even if some of that history is hard to look at or makes you uncomfortable.

Folk witchery is often something passed down in families. I tend not to put much stock in terms like "hereditary witch" because for decades I've seen it used by too many people as a presumptuous shortcut to claim an authority and competency that can only be gained through knowledge. Your grandmother was a witch? Your grandfather was a Hoodoo priest or a tribal shaman? Good for you, but that doesn't mean you automatically inherited magical knowledge or skill. That takes work. It also takes humility and a real sense of responsibility to the ancestors who have marked the path for you. If you come from witchy folk, you have without a doubt been given the gift of a certain perspective. What you do with it and how you move forward will say a lot more about who you are than who your ancestors were.

Religious witches are a very large group. Religious witchery can include almost any sort of practice that follows religious rules. Wicca is a modern Pagan religion that a lot of newcomers to witchcraft are attracted to in the beginning. I have known witches who converted from one mainstream religion to another before settling on one that meshes with their practice. Others may want to hold on to the same religious beliefs they've always held, but to incorporate them into their witchy practice. The mixing of old and new gods is something that humans have been doing from their own beginnings. Your spirituality and how you approach it is wholly your realm to design. If you are more comfortable with preexisting structures, then religious witchery may appeal to you. 

The best advice I can give any new witch is to be curious, true to yourself, question sources and authorities. Be respectful of closed religious or cultural systems, be careful to not appropriate and avoid hypocrisy. Mostly? Be a decent human being and enjoy yourself! Learning to be a witch can be (and should be) fun! It should be something that adds fullness to your daily life as you make things better for yourself and others whenever you can. Find your connections, those wonderful energy threads that bind you to this reality and any others that may be out there open to you. That's where the true magic lies for me.

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