Witchcraft Journal Blog

A resource for information and opinions on the beliefs, practices, customs, and magic of Traditional Witchcraft of the British Isles.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

On the Topics of Nature and the Spirits

While Trad Witches believe in the gods, which are honoured in ritual, we also believe in pantheism, which is the belief that "everything in the universe is god and god is everything in the universe." This is expressed in the concept of being "one with Nature". Nature, or the god (God), is seen as neutral, neither good nor bad, but is to be respected, appreciated, and revered, that it simply "is." Nature is the totality of reality. Nature simply exists and provides us with a world that is not more kind than it is brutal, nor more beautiful than ugly, nor more comforting than harsh.

In the tradition of British witchcraft, Nature encompasses far more than our worldly province to also encompass the OtherSide, or heaven, within its domain. Thus, it could be said correctly that heaven and Earth are all part of Nature. Therefore, the Trad Witch views Nature as a force that surrounds us in life as well as in death.

Traditional Witches have always been very spiritually minded, coördinating their lives with Nature, forging associations and friendships with spirits and Spirit Guides, and honoring specific gods through family tradition.

One of many beliefs that marked the witch as very different from the majority is the belief in the absolute equality of all life forms, both on Earth and on the OtherSide. Trad Witches believe the spirits of the living and the spirits of the dead are completely equal. This means that all spirits are equal. This has many ramifications including the ancient belief that males and females are completely equal. The concept of a god and goddess duality, male and female in equal balance, is certainly part of many traditions in Trad Witchcraft but is not found in all traditions.

The witch has a special relationship with spirits on the OtherSide. Friendly spirits are thought of as one might think of a neighbor. When you think about it, a spirit is simply another person, whether alive or dead, in this world or on the OtherSide. As with people, the personality of spirits vary as human personalities vary. Some spirits are uncoöperative and nasty, while others are agreeable and helpful. Many more tend to be neutral.

As with any family member or friend, friendly spirits are around us at ritual or during magic. Spirits are always treated with high respect. There are many spirits willing to help us if we only ask. There are specific techniques that are very effective in this regard.

Traditional Witchcraft is a religion of considerable depth. It is a religion of the highest spirituality, of Nature-consciousness, of gender equality. It is as vibrant today as it has always been.


Traditional Witchcraft in Britain and Wicca are Way Different

The Traditional Witchcraft of Britain and Wicca are not the same thing. Traditional Witchcraft, or "Trad Witchcraft," is the historic form of witchcraft that honours our ancestors and has practices and ritual that we believe to be faithful to what our ancestors did in the past. Wicca was created in the 1950's and includes many beliefs and practices that are not traditional and not British.

It is said that "Wiccans spend most of their time preparing for magic, while Traditional Witches spend most of their time doing magic." That could very well be true. Compared to Wiccan ritualism and formality, rituals in many traditions in Trad Witchcraft could be considered downright casual. Certainly, there is little use of props such as correspondences, unless they happen to be handy.

The Trad Witch will usually use only one or two white candles for both ritual and spellwork. Wiccans use a wide range of colors, each color for a specific "magickal" reason not based on any tradition in witchcraft.

Wiccans will always use a "circle" for ritual and spellwork because they believe they need to create a "sacred space." But in Traditional Witchcraft, land and air are innately sacred, which means that all space is sacred. Therefore, many Trad Witches will not create a compass most of the time because there is no need. However, a seeker, one in training, will be instructed to use a compass as an aid to their concentration. Of course, a compass will also be used if there is a very special need, especially a group meeting; again to help concentration and not to create a sacred space.

The location of rituals is another matter of little concern to the Trad Witch. Again, because all space is sacred, there is no preferred location where rituals should take place. Of course, on a beautiful, warm day, there is no reason why a ritual should not be held in the woods or an isolated location in the countryside. However, all things equal, location is irrelevant. As British weather tends to be very chilly and rainy, Trad Witches have always preferred to do spellwork and rituals indoors.

An important exception to this general rule are ancient circles and other ancient sacred places located across Britain. If possible, it is always good to visit such wonderful places and to absorb the energy. However, care must be taken as rituals and spellwork must never be observed by strangers.

In Trad Witchcraft rites and spellwork, it is the tradition of many to ask for the assistance of friendly spirits, including Land Spirits, Spirit Guides and other spirits.
Spirits are always treated in a respectful manner. Their invocation is always worded as a request. Spirits would never be "commanded" to attend as in Wicca.

A ritual fire such as a small campfire or hearth fire is used during rituals, if possible. If a fire is not possible, then one or two white candles are used indoors, or a lantern is used out-of-doors.

The ritual tools used can vary widely. One or more of the following might be used: a stang (staff with two prongs), staff, dagger or a simple kitchen or workshop knife, mirror, bowl, besom, cauldron, some stones, or a "horn" (usually a glass or cup).

For ritual and spellwork, Trad Witches are usually clothed in street cloths. He may also wear a robe. Being naked, or so-called "skyclad", in the Wiccan manner, is never done.

The most important ritual observances are the Full Moon celebrations, outside of Trad Witchcraft called the esbat. The term "esbat" is certainly not traditional. The Full Moon is special because magical energies are enhanced during that time of the month.

The Festival celebrations are of secondary importance and they are not universally celebrated. Many Trad Witches celebrate festivals because they are closely associated with the seasons, with sacred Nature. But traditions vary quite widely. The god/goddess narrative story is not followed as it is in Neo-Pagan and Wiccan celebrations.

It should be noted that this information is a generalization as traditions within Trad Witchcraft can vary.

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