Its questions like this wondering why I started this project yet at the same time epitomises exactly why I wanted and needed to address them. These are the hard questions which will shine a light on my beliefs and understandings and even direct my development over the years to come. This isn’t about the right answers, its about my answers, and this post doesn’t need to provide them all in one fail swoop as there are other posts which can tease out the detail at a later date.
What do Witches believe?
Broadly speaking the foundation of Witchcraft is Animism. Taken from the latin Anima, meaning life/soul, Animist believe in a divine or supernatural force which imbues all animate and inanimate objects. From Google:
the attribution of a living soul to plants, inanimate objects, and natural phenomena.
the belief in a supernatural power that organizes and animates the material universe.
Whether this “force” is identified with a deity; group of deities, spirit beings; thoughtforms and constructs or seen as a vast and unknowable nameless being, or indeed beings, Witches recognise this energy in all aspects of the world around them. This is expressed by being in tune with and honoring/respecting the various cycles which can be experienced in the world.
There are many observable cycles in the world. There are the solar, lunar and stellar cycles; the cycle of seasons and weather; and there is the ebb and flow of life itself as we progress steadily from birth and life towards death and rebirth. Witches recognise these wheels within wheels within wheels and the interconnectivity of these cycles is known, if not honoured. Individual Witches or groups of Witches will differ in terms of which cycle/s they honour and what form that takes, if at all as nature worship is only one aspect of Witchcraft.
One important belief of the Witch is in their ability to effect change in the world around them. Some Witches see this as a process of working in concert with the animistic forces of the world and universe whilst others see it at a process of exerting ones will over these forces and moulding them to ones own ends. Another, more atheistic interpretation is that change is affected by the force of will of the practitioner, without involving any form of divine force.
Either interpretation is valid, as this isn’t an argument of Animism over the various theism’s that exist but rather the personal gnosis of the individual being valid to that individual (unverified personal gnosis or UPG). In truth, having spoken to a numberof Atheist Witches I tend to find their interpretation of Witchcraft as almost being Gnostic.
By the very dint of being able to effect change many Witches are aware of the level of responsibility that accompanies that ability. Sometimes this is expressed in the form of an ethical statement such as the Rede and Threefold Law, by the belief in Karma (be that the true Eastern understanding or the New Age misinterpretion) or Cause and Effect or work to create for themselves a moral and ethical structure which allows for them to practice witchcraft in a way which they feel comfortable.
What do I believe?
I try to work in concert with the forces around me but whilst I am a child of Fate I recognise my own ability to determine my own Fate.
As the devotee of a Goddess I recognise the existence of Divine energy and interact with Her and other divinities in my practice but I also recognise the inherent life energy/force or spirit associated with objects and place. Working and interact with these forces forms a part of my praxis, though is dependent on the work I am doing, and whilst I prefer to be a supplicant I am more than capable of exerting my will as a master.
As for the moral and ethical responsibilities of Witchcraft I have written on this subject previously. You can read my thoughts in detail here however in brief I believe in personal responsibility and the concept of cause and effect. I effect change in the world around me and by that extent it will have an effect; intended and unintended, seen and unseen. Whatever the outcome of my actions I accept them as the result of my personal choices unreservedly and to date I have never had cause to regret my decisions.
Different Witches believe in different things, it’s very hard to create a one size fits all response to this question. Equally it hasn’t been possible to go into the minutiae of my beliefs, or even appropriate. We will get into it in greater depth over the course of the year.
As ever you can check out the rest of the Defining My Craft project by visiting the page. Next week I will be posting on the age of the so-called ‘Old Religion’. Let’s see how contentious I can be.