How to Study Traditional Witchcraft and Occultism: Witchcraft Versus Witchcraft Theater
by Sophia diGregorio
This article is a continuation of the previous post, entitled “The Dangers of Wiccan Covens and Other Neo-Pagan Groups to Women and Children.”
Much of what you will find in Wicca and neo-paganism is a kind of theatrical performance. Wicca may be accurately described as a celebration of witchcraft, but most of it bears no resemblance to actual witchcraft (or what we now call “traditional witchcraft” since the overwhelming growth in popularity of neo-paganism). The same can be said of other re-creationist forms of paganism in which participants dress a certain way, get in a circle and perform some sort of celebration.
The Wiccans celebrate the seasons and the sabbats. They celebrate the phases of the moon and they honor the old gods and goddesses. They celebrate to worship nature – literal nature, such as the trees and the planet. Sometimes they do it in fancy robes and sometimes they do it in the buff. But, it is all a theater of ritual. They do it to have a sense of belonging, for fellowship and sometimes to hold onto some vestige of religion after abandoning some form of Christianity, since Wicca and many other forms of neo-paganism are, in fact, religions.
Sometimes, they actually use witchcraft, but the same could be said of the Catholics, the Pentecostals and the Evangelicals, who use some very powerful magic at their services. This doesn’t make them witches, as such. And, the same is true of most Wiccans and neo-pagans. They are witches in name only. And, some neo-pagans never use this term, at all – they are Wiccans (or Asatrur or whatever) and they do not consider themselves witches.
Of course, there’s nothing really wrong with this as long as the new-comer to witchcraft and the occult realizes what he or she is involved in. The problem comes with the misinformation given by the leadership, some of whom are corrupt while others are simply deluded.
Neo-pagan covens, orders and groups all too often quickly come to resemble their Christian counterparts. Sometimes they become a playground for sociopaths in one way or another. If the leader is not luring women for nefarious purposes, they may be draining the member’s time or wallet. The leader and the members of the innermost circle – and there is usually one or more that other members don’t know about and don’t suspect exists – stroke each other’s egos with the idea of having some power over others.
At the very least, these groups are social clubs with their pot luck dinners, pagan night out (often a drunken affair, in my observation) and opportunities to play dress-up. In groups where children are permitted – something that should be undertaken with caution or not at all, especially, if the group practices nudity – there is the opportunity for people with children to find like-minded people with children.
But, this is all witchcraft theater and there is very little occultism, occult studies or witchcraft going on. If you want to study witchcraft, this is not the way to go about it. On the other hand, if you are done with Christianity, but still want to have a religion and be around religious people with their social constructs, then this is an option.
Wicca and neo-paganism are not subjects serious students of witchcraft or the occult linger on for long, even when they are met by them on their first introduction to the occult, which is very common these days, since it is their books that dominate the shelves of mainstream bookstores and they are the most socially acceptable types of witches, being members of a recognized religion.
The fact is that genuine witchcraft is not a religion any more than it is a theatrical production.
How to Study Witchcraft and the Occult
We’ve seen how not to learn about witchcraft and the occult, so here are some ideas for going about it the right way.
First of all, not all organizations are bad, but many of them are and at the very least most of them are a waste of time. Therefore, when approaching any organization, take a look at the members and their actual purpose. Are they achieving their stated goals? Are their goals your goals? Is the membership comprised of people whose knowledge and expertise you could benefit from? What exactly will they require from you? Never join any organization until you’ve investigated them for a long time and do not reject criticism of the organization without examining its veracity. Always take caution because it is often easier to get into a cult than it is to get out of a cult. Take even greater caution if the group claims to be a coven that is recruiting. Genuine covens do not often recruit, especially from the general public or casual inquiries.
If you must be part of an organization, a better idea is to start your own study group – not a coven or order – with two or three close friends who have similar interests to yours. Let each member research particular aspects of occultism and traditional witchcraft and teach it to the others..
In the very beginning, the best choice is probably not to be part of any organization, but to undertake the study of traditional witchcraft and occultism on your own.
Begin by making your own inquiry into the so-called paranormal. This may be especially important to people who are spiritually out of touch or do not have highly developed psychic abilities. You must verify for yourself the reality of spiritual phenomena.
One of the most important aspects of witchcraft to study is the art and science of healing because it is here that the applied esoteric science of witchcraft can most readily be demonstrated to yourself and others. The skills you will learn as a healer can be applied to other areas of witchcraft and the occult.
Other important areas of study include the history and practice of witchcraft (not Wicca or neo-pagan religions) around the world.
Hermeticism and Theosophical Luciferianism (ie. Blavatsky’s “Secret Doctrine” and the works of the second wave Theosophists, Besant, Leadbeter and Powell) are, also, important areas of study.
Master some aspects of astrology and Hermeticism by learning to read the tarot, which is a powerful initiation into the occult mysteries and a tool for developing phenomenal psychic abilities, as discussed in the book, “How to Read the Tarot for Fun, Profit and Psychic Development for Beginners and Advanced Readers,” by Angela Kaelin. Complete mastery of the tarot leads to a true initiation into the esteric science of witchcraft. This is not something some one can bestow upon you in an initiatory ritual, which is only symbolism and theatricialism, but an genuine initiation.
This may not be as much fun as joining a group and attending meetings and pot luck dinners in your ritual cloak, but it is a true initiation in the esoteric mysteries of traditional witchcraft and the occult.
Wicca is the most accessible and acceptable form of witchcraft in existence in English-speaking countries today. It can be a doorway to the the riches of the occult or a trap for the mind and spirit, depending on how it is approached and the knowledge with which this is done.
In “What’s Next After Wicca?” the author answers the question she often heard from her metaphysical bookstore customers who had studied Wicca, but felt dissatisfied with it and wanted to learn more about the subject of witchcraft, in general: “What else is there?”
This book represents the opinion of the author after 25 years of experience in the occult and several years of owning a store that was, also, a networking center for neo-pagan groups. It is written in an informative, yet conversational style, just as she would speak to friends and customers who would ask for her opinions about witchcraft and the occult.
It includes a discussion on the origins and the present state of Wicca, other alternative religions and philosophies including Satanism, Luciferianism, Germanic Occultism, Gnosticism and traditional witchcraft. Throughout are recommendations for other courses of occult studies, including a categorized bibliography.
Note: This is not a spell book or a manual on how to do witchcraft.