Stepping out of the shadows and into the light: Evolution and tensions in the future of contemporary Pagan Witchcraft
One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious. (Jung, 1945)
Unlike the dominant religions in Western society, much of the symbolism of contemporary Paganism, and of Pagan Witchcraft in particular, draws on images of the dark. The twentieth century Witchcraft revival cast itself as a hidden and secret tradition, a religion of the night. Pagan Witchcraft’s deities are the Goddess of Earth and Moon and the Dark Lord of Death. Indeed, its sacred text is the Book of Shadows. The very term ‘Witch’ is a challenge to notions of propriety, religion and ‘goodness’, and some practitioners actively embrace a ‘witchy’ persona of black velvet robes and large pentagrams.
In embracing dark imagery, contemporary Pagans reject stereotypical notions that equate spiritual growth with light and evil with darkness. The inner connection with the Divine is conceived of not as a ‘higher self’, but as a deeper and more authentic self that embraces the shadow of repressed negativity as well as unrealized potential (Crowley & Crowley, 2001). In its willingness to embrace the depths of the psyche, Pagan Witchcraft can be therapeutic and healing (Crowley, 2000), and shares some of the spiritual growth aims of the psychologies of Carl Gustav Jung, James Hillman, and others.
The dark imagery can also act as a barrier. Contemporary Paganism seeks to combat societal prejudice and to obtain a position of equality with world religions. To achieve this, many Pagan witches have adopted less-threatening nomenclature and have discarded practices such as skyclad rituals that contravene social norms. Others reject the goal of social integration, preferring to remain closer to the occult roots of Witchcraft and retaining elements of practice that are counter-cultural and challenging.
Can contemporary Paganism, and in particular Pagan Witchcraft, straddle the ‘dark and light’, preserving its mystery and the powerful impact of its rituals and symbolism, but at the same time broadening its appeal and seeking to be part of mainstream religion?
Crowley, V. (2000). Healing in Wicca. In W. Griffin (Ed.), Daughters of the Goddess: Studies of identity, healing and empowerment (pp. 151-165). Walnut Creek, Ca: AltaMira Press.
Crowley, V., & Crowley, C. (2001). Your Dark Side: How to turn your inner negativity into positive energy. London: Thorsons/HarperCollins.
Jung, C. G. (1945). The philosophical tree. II. On the history and interpretation of the tree symbol. 18. The relation of suffering to the coniunctio. In C. G. Jung, Collected Works of C. G. Jung, Volume 13 (pp. 334-337). 1967 ed. Princeton, NJ: Routledge & Kegan Paul.
Vivianne Crowley PhD is a psychologist and formerly a professor of psychology of religion at the University of London. She is currently in the Faculty of Pastoral Counseling and Chaplaincy at Cherry Hill Seminary. Her research interests are in the development of contemporary Paganism in Europe, ritual experience, and religion and psychological well-being. She is a Wiccan High Priestess and is the author of many books on Wicca, Paganism, and spiritual psychology, including the best-selling Wicca: A comprehensive guide to the Old Religion in the modern world. The focus of her spiritual work is supporting and fostering the development of those who lead groups and teach others.
Consecrating the Underworld: The Eco-Spiritual and Co-Creative Implications of Faery Tradition
The tree of human knowledge continues expanding its outward and upward reach into more exciting technologies. On the surface this appears wonderful and comforting; yet, a tree that grows top-heavy with shallow roots will eventually topple. Wisdom-Keepers across many teachings and traditions have voiced rising concerns about the dangers of this because “you cannot bless the fruits and curse the roots”. This means that it is ill-advised to continue praising and expanding this growth while turning further away from the “original instructions” of the ancestors which were “integrative, co-creative and restorative” and considerate of non-human life. Biologists and Ecologists have long known that overspecialization is the hallmark of extinction. So, technology…even sacred practice (magical, mystical and spiritual), that is only human-driven is over-specialized, disconnected and contrary to these instructions. The instructions are centered on our connection to our ancestry…human and other; and, how to maintain a considerate, compassionate and co-creative relationship with these forces. As one of my elders taught “intimacy is in the invisible” and “evolved humanity is in understanding other (non-humanity)”.
We must heed the call of our ancestors to “deepen” our inter-connective relationship with life and our role as the human component of our planet’s destiny. We are a quality of our planet’s nature. We are human-nature and nature “humanified” and we have a profound role; but, it is intertwined (not independent) with all planetary life and its destiny. Faery tradition is a call-back to this role and our relationship with “the underworld” which is the intimate and subtle tides, rhythms and relationships within the web of life. However, Faery tradition is too often minimized as mere folk belief in capricious and whimsical nature spirits when it is a powerful, primal and transformational tradition of lore and practices for engaging the invisible and threshold aspects of nature and the underworld.
In this presentation, Orion will provide lore, poetic introductions, techniques and sound advice for approaching this ancient and potent form of magic and folk practice. He will discuss the nature of the Faery realms, the tribes of Faery, practices for engaging them; the nature of the three realms of existence, the interface of Faery work and necromantic practices and the purpose for working with Faery to name a few of the subjects. But, most importantly, he will discuss the core insights of this tradition that make it a useful way to “re-sacred-dize” our relationship with the underworld and establish a healthy relationship with it. Core to this practice is redeeming ancestral paradox and calling up the powers and spiritual forces of the River of Blood…that stream of human presence that extends from the ancient past through the mediation of our current lives.
Orion Foxwood is a witch, conjure-man and faery seer; and, the author of “The Faery Teachings” (RJ Stewart Books), “The Tree of Enchantment” and “The Candle and the Crossroads” (Weiser Books). He was born with the veil (the second sight) in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, where he was first exposed to faith-healing, root-doctoring and second-sight practices of southern and Appalachian culture; and has continued learning and teaching these spirit-doctoring practices in workshops, intensives and lectures. Orion is the founder, and primary teacher, of the House of Brigh Faery Seership Institute, a multi-year teaching program in the “Tree of Enchantment” Seerhship lore, practices, traditions and skills; and a co-founder of Conjure Crossroads (CC), which is a collaboration between five (5) seasoned root-workers and witches focused on preserving and promoting the healing and helping benefits of southern root-work, witchcraft and other folk traditions. CC hosts the annual Folk Magic Festival in New Orleans, Conjure-Con in Santa Cruz, CA and an ongoing blog show. He is the Founding Elder of Foxwood Temple, a coven dedicated to passing on the traditional witchcraft of his elders . He holds a Master’s Degree in Human Services. His website is orionfoxwood.com.