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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in Old Craft

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Witches with Their Feet on the Ground

As a movement, the modern Old Craft has tended to be characterized by a verbal style that I can only call “opaque.”

Anyone who has ever tried to work her way through the letters of Robert Cochrane (1931-1966), Father of modern Old Craft, will know what I'm talking about. Cochrane hints, but rarely tells. He's very good at dropping a few evocative details, then drawing the veil back over. He writes, as my friend and colleague Bruner Soderberg once rather acidly observed, “to impress rather than to inform."

His would-be successors, alas, have often tended to follow suit. Particularly notorious for the opacity of his prose was mage Andrew Chumbley (1967-2004), whose books have got to be among the most-collected and least-read titles on the shelves of modern Witchdom.

Chumbley seems immune to clear exposition. He will never say “mystery” when he can possibly say arcanum, “flying ointment” instead of unguentum sabbati. Maybe there really are people out these who are impressed by high school Latin, but personally, I'm not one of them.

Old Craft thrives here in the American Midwest. What both intrigues and impresses me about Midwest Old Craft is its very lack of opacity. Rather, the standard Chumbleyian style of “I know something you don't know” obfuscation seems to us a pomposity, a bore: in fact, an admission of poverty. It strikes us—whether rightly or wrongly—as a ploy to cover lack of substance.

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  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    By its very nature, Old Craft defies clear exposition. It's best transmitted through evocation: story, dance, song. And surely it
  • Ian Phanes
    Ian Phanes says #
    Can you recommend any Old Craft books that are "crisp, clear, succinct"?

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Chest of Tools

It's the question always asked of the witch.

If your magic is so powerful, then why are they hanging you?

When things go wrong in your own life, you may well have asked yourself much the same question.

If I'm such a powerful witch and all, then why is my life such a mess?

Well, as they say, sometimes the magic works, and sometimes it doesn't.

But that's to miss the point.

When they gave us the Craft, the gods never promised that life would be easy.

They never said that there would be no hardship.

In fact, they gave us the Craft precisely because they foresaw that there would be hardship. Hardship, alas, there will always be.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Gods, that's great, John. Good old Zen.
  • John Zelasko
    John Zelasko says #
    There is a saying in Zen that goes something like this: Before enlightenment - haul water, chop wood. AFTER enlightenment - haul w
  • Chris Moore
    Chris Moore says #
    That's a big chest of tools, depending on whom you ask. What tools of the Craft are the most needed, here and now?
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Athame, chalice, and pentacle. Ha, ha: just joking. Three come to immediate mind, and of course they're all powers/strategies of t
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    In Medicine Wheel by Sun Bear the Author says he is not interested in any philosophy that doesn't grow corn. Witchcraft grows the
What If the Word for 'Make Love' Were the Name of a Goddess?

Frig and Frig.

Etymologists are pretty much agreed that there's no direct connection between the verb frig (euphemistic for f**k) and the divine name Frig (the Anglo-Saxon goddess for whom Friday was named).

But what a gift of a coincidence it is.

Imagine: a culture in which the word for 'making love' was the name of a goddess.

How good is that?

Robert Cochrane, the father of the contemporary Old Craft movement, used to sign his letters 3 (or 4) Fs. This alludes to an old tongue-in-cheek Devonshire saying: Flax, flags, fodder (and frig). These are the three (or four) necessities of life: clothing, shelter, food, and love.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Tree of Sacrifice

The stang, or “Devil's Cross,” is the forked pole that, in Old Craft usage, represents the Horned.

It's a Tree of Life.

It's also a Tree of Death.

At the great temple of Uppsala in Sweden, they used to hang the bodies of sacrifices—strange and terrible fruit—from the trees of the sacred grove.

If you've ever seen the gutted carcass of a deer strung up from a branch to bleed out, you'll understand.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
The Stangmen

They call them the Stangmen.

They also call them the Witchmen, though generally out of earshot.

A bunch of grizzled old farmers that look just like anyone else, though everyone knows who they are.

Everyone knows that at the Old Times they go up to the Hill—the one that everyone still calls Old Baldie, though the trees grew back long since—and there they do their work.

Back before the trees grew back, you could see every field and pasture in the district from up there.

They call them the Stangmen because they keep the four old stangs, handed down since no one knows when.

Different stangs for different times and different purposes: Ram, Bull, Stag, Goat.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
The Other Rede

The baby bird is lying broken on the ground, dying. Its parents, perhaps detecting some weakness in it, have pushed it out of the nest.

Clearly, it's suffering. What do you do?

“Don't do what you want to do,” wrote Robert Cochrane, father of the contemporary Old Craft movement. “Do what needs to be done.”

Cochrane is critiquing the Wiccan Rede here. “Do what you want to do” is his sneering version of “Do what ye will.”

Old Craft ethic is different from Wicca's. It's tribal at heart, concerned with life together and the obligations that social existence entails.

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  • Diotima
    Diotima says #
    I also find Judy Harrow's "Exegesis on the Wiccan Rede" to be of considerable interest. You might too. http://www.sacred-texts.com
  • Diotima
    Diotima says #
    Oh, gosh, I think the Wiccan Rede is vastly more complex than "do what you want". "An' it harm none, do as you will" requires a
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Thanks for the thoughtful reply, Diotima. I agree that Cochrane's reading doesn't even begin to plumb the depths; Cochrane had a k

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Bad Boys

I was regaling a friend of mine with Old Craft tales of the god of the witches. Being Wiccan, she hadn't heard most of them before.

“Wait a minute,” she says. “So: he sees that we're cold and hungry, and he steals the fire of heaven to warm and to feed us?”

“Right.”

“And he kills his own brother because they're both in love with the same woman?”

“That's what they say.”

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