the mysteries, tradition & crafting arte of witchcraft

But now, such is the fate of human things, these MYSTERIES, venerable as they were, in their first institution, did, it must be owned, in course of time, fearfully degenerate; and those very provisions made by the state to enable the mysteries to obtain the end of their establishment, became the very means of defeating it. For we can assign no surer CAUSE of the horrid abuses and corruptions of the mysteries (besides time, which naturally and fatally depraves and vitiates all things) than the SEASON in which they were represented; and the profound SILENCE in which they were buried. For NIGHT gave opportunity to wicked men to attempt evil actions ; and SECRECY, encouragement to perpetrate them; and the inviolable nature of that secrecy, which encouraged abuses, kept them from the magistrate’s knowledge so long, till it was too late to reform them. In a word, we must own, that these mysteries, so powerful in their first institution for the promotion of VIRTUE and KNOWLEDGE, § became, in time, horribly subservient to the gratification of LUST and REVENGE.”

{The Divine Legation of Moses Demonstrated by William Warburton}

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Within this 21st century of ours, we presume many changes and effects. We have inherited a whole corpus of occult-ure and yet, we remain but infants before its hoary and nefarious notoriety. As terms and/or catalysts for change, ‘traditional’ and ‘witchcraft’ have become synonymous with each other over the last few decades, yet it should be clear neither idiom has always been understood in this current trend of mutual inclusivity. For this reason, many ‘families’ and ‘traditions’ have commonly [though not always] subscribed to the collective term – ‘Craft.’ This does of course extend by default into various branches of folk-magic, crafts guilds, charming, herbalism, consequent to the dual faith practises of so many cunning men/women that further typify ever more individual digressions; this is especially true when regarding influences and location within Britain.


Most importantly, we must realise here that it is to such peoples, largely drawn from within the province of the laboured classes, we acquired the creative and innovative guilds-men and women. Ironically, these folk were the judicial developers of what is now deemed as: ‘Craft.’ And so it can be said with some irony, that Traditional Craft, and most particularly, the Craft, was borne out of the Witchcraft some few hundred years ago, albeit in reactionary conflict of it. Witch ‘craft,’ on the other hand, had set for itself an historical precedent for maleficia. It has been notoriously malignant and wilful in its defiant artes, typically those engaged in casting a curse by hand or eye. Existing within every religion and faith, irrespective of whether deemed to be Christian, pagan or other, it was practised by a whole strata of folk from peasant to prince, yet more than a few Cunning-folk were known for their services both sides of the fence, albeit not officially.


Another associated misnomer regards the usage and application of the word ‘coven’ in our time, to suggest fanciful links to a romantic view of the past in order to validate an asserted ‘tradition.’ And yet, in reality, then as now, within ‘Craft’ or folk-magic praxis, both necessity and circumstance demanded that the practitioner worked alone. Tradition may not confer age or authenticity; it simply infers a principle of stability, whether established, revived, revised, or re-introduced. If expressed and continued, even in ‘one’ generation only, it stands as tradition. The Traditions of Witchcraft are a different kettle of fish altogether, having an entirely distinct criteria that determine its existence and validity. It is important to appreciate that terms and labels used even by peoples belonging to a family or clan may still represent either individual perspective on these matters, or a distinct sensitivity/awareness of how they are perceived by the public they are addressing in their usage. Both become integral to the establishment of a term that implicitly asserts far more than cunning craft or folk magics.



Of course ‘traditions’ in and of themselves that range from enrichment of the former to a total cosmological Mythos within a Faith, of a belief of a ‘people’ bound in troth, in truth to something ‘other,’ offer rather more personal than generic titles. These alternative labels over time, have substituted those of the former ‘Old’ Religions of these lands; that is to say Catholicism for the most part. Opinion may vary on this but it has been my experience that the ‘Priestess’ and ‘High Priestess’ roles within certain sections of Wicca and within some Neo-Pagan systems are certainly found to be very alluring to many women. And to be quite candid, Traditional Craft is largely presented as a predominantly masculine, authoritarian, even misogynist practise with select conclaves of horsemen, toad-men etc, having side-lined women historically in terms of anything deemed little better than servants, concubines, hand-maidens et al, and then, somewhat after the event. Though a rather harsh generalisation, it remains entrenched within the current public view and widely held, whether correct or not by those within and without the Craft. By such contrast, it becomes explicitly clear how this path may hold little appeal to women who seek a better appreciation of their sex other than this gross overview.



In some social circles it is somewhat cynically expressed how Wicca is at fault in its weak apathy, whereas Traditional Craft is [scathingly]held as being led by megalomaniacs. Media is of course an unforgiving and brutishly cruel judge and jury. From my own perspective within both systems, it is at least fair to say Wicca is a woman’s world and Traditional Craft is certainly a ‘man’s world. But not all traditional ‘Craft’ is like this. It never was. The male dominated perspective is historically incorrect with the exception of more recent 19th century agricultural guilds and societies. My view may be deemed controversial, but it is one Evan John Jones fought hard to assert and failed in the quagmire of the natural inclination within our modern society to respect and take up ideas presented by men in preference to those offered by women, especially if and where they ‘champion’ that status quo. It has been proven time over, men just simply prefer to ‘hear’ things from another man. In the final scenario, it comes down to what is real, what is genuine and what is historically correct. In no way am I positing either a feminist argument here, nor an arcane matriarchy.



There remains the need for a more honest and clear answer to redress more justly the nonsenses applied in practise and in media hype regarding what is essentially an extremely small, elitist minority that has too long misrepresented the arcane arts. Historically, all these arts stand as unmitigatedly led by female poets, artists, alchemists, warriors, mystics and so on. But to those who find themselves bemused or perplexed by this concept, or even challenged by it, I can only recommend they research genuine sources to discover how easily all of this is easily confirmed. It is always worth clarifying too the important distinction within the ‘nameless arte’ of traditions within folk magics and traditions of them. There is indeed a dearth of female voices heard, and though some female practitioners write eloquently upon their traditions within folk magics as a much needed balance to the toad men etc, they seldom achieve the same kudos, especially by other men, with particular regard to ‘cunning crafts.’

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In contra-distinction, however, the Mystery Traditions apropos the traditions ‘of’ the Craft have held women in the greatest esteem. Thus it is ably demonstrated in this middle ground, how that arcane ‘priestly’ role so inherent of the divine feminine, holds a much mourned and lamented missing element of the triadic mysteries deep within the psyche of these ancient Isles of Britain. It is a lost voice, drowned by the more active magical roles of the kitchen witch and the toad man alike. It is much the current flavour to express these concerns within the greater context of the crises that plague our world. The banes of hatred and prejudice, exploitation and abuse continue to gnaw away the very fabric of community spirit and of the ‘Craft’ itself. Personally, I therefore applaud any work presented that serves to shake people from their somnambulist apathy regarding the shattering inequalities and prejudicial horrors occurring every moment all over the world around us. This is our world, and we all live within it. There can be no exclusions.



Furthermore, it is the duty and ‘craft’ of all to champion and support many of the disturbing eco issues raised within various topical media. Why? because we are allegedly ‘witches’ and must have a duty to care about ‘Mother Nature’ and the biosphere? Hardly probable, neither historically, nor in our contemporary climate. Rather, because the future of our world and its depleting resources and/or poisoned ones will assuredly disrupt the lifestyles of our children to come; for they will inherit our debris, and we should act simply because we SHOULD act. The issue is not requisite of our path, be that down to the labels by which we are defined in our rush to separate and articulate ourselves (somewhat ironically) as individuals.’ Being a witch, or not, being a pagan or not, is quite irrelevant in this instance. To consider the movement as being the radical duty of a ‘witch’ is not only inaccurate historically, it presumes an realistic and unprecedented homogeneity in the present to articulate the future… there can be no such singular lens. We are all bound to the ethos of tradition and ‘That’ is as diverse as the tongues and attendant culture on the planet we are invested to consider.



As human beings it is incumbent upon us to be mindful, not as witches. Traditions are by definition inherited and that assumes a duty to its preservation and development. there is no umbrella definition for tradition just as there is not for paganism, for in our era, such things are intensely diversified. The Craft, as in those skills handed down borne of tradition in perpetuity for the enhancement of life being in harmony with the natural forces and virtues of ‘Pangaia,’ must remain culturally aligned to the strains by which they were developed, and wherein specialisms intensify the potency of diversity. Above this, the ‘pangevity’ of concern SHOULD remain a priority of all , irrespective of the individual calling. Wake up, take up the call, but be true to your own path; it need not become subsumed to the new imperialism of homogeneity to rent the poison from misgovernment. We are thus doubly radical and doubly fierce; we are first of all human beings and secondly individuals.



In both cases, we serve an indiscriminate and inclusive desire for life. Our mutual concerns and reverential love of the planet augurs our responsibilities regarding our future upon it. Past extinctions have occurred as consequence of our unbridled greed and ignorance; yet neither at the hands of witches nor non witches, but by human beings. Clearly what needs to change is us, each and every one of us.


Blessed Sophia


Rally forth to that banner!

~ by meanderingsofthemuse on August 22, 2014.

One Response to “the mysteries, tradition & crafting arte of witchcraft”

  1. Well written and thought of work . Really like the view about ladies becoming recognised for the ‘ traditional craft’ its about time …….. 🙂

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