How does one begin to write of spirituality? Perhaps at the end. Perhaps staying at the surface. Writing about anything in a spiritual nature is truly an impossible task. To openly speak or write of it is fallacy. Without consuming myself, or perhaps because I have consumed myself, there are breadcrumbs to write of, yet never gather. This is why true spiritual texts are written in poetic form, difficult to understand, woven within myth, a combination of history and story. Esoteric in an abstract sense, until more easily defined for the masses. Yet when approaching the word esoteric in a modern perspective, you enter into a world of fraud, lost minds, delusional concepts, and overall comedy. When studying the realms of mythology outside of the major world religions, held within a spiritual perspective, you are met with fantasy and chaos of the modern mind. Therefore, I write of modern esotericism.
When someone wishes to teach of such a thing, one only teaches of the self. A path that works for one person, attempting to capture it within whatever symbolism or mythology inspiring one. All religious paths dwelve into the self. Something is esoteric, known by few, as it typically pertains to very few. As each is seeking self understanding. Just as every religious teaching that has any worth to self improvement can be explained entirely within the realm of psychology, or entirely within the realm of the spirit. The goal is to find the balance.
My deep interest lies within spiritual western traditions. Perhaps tradition is not the right word. What tradition? My deep interest lies within western mythology. It is within these mythologies that we have an insight, an inspiration into western spirituality, yet only an insight. Pagan mythology is always recorded by the hands of “early” western Christianity. That is Catholicism. It is not that teachings within Christianity have been changed to be corrupted. As with all religions, teachings are manifested to inspire the culture and lands containing them. Therefore Christianity is westernized, as opposed to other Abrahamic traditions. Cast upon a pagan land, the forms of religion become somewhat pagan in approach. These are the saints and paths of Catholicism, leading towards God. Just as no pagan god recorded actually fits the role of an all encompassing God. Thus this is the western tradition that is cast in stone, these mythologies. All else is lost in mist. To believe otherwise is dillusion. There is an attempt at casting such pagan mythologies as a true form of religion. This is a complicated concept to delve into. For the closest thing one can grab unto is the past, that left very little, and that what it left, be very careful of… The idea of modern Norse or Celtic paganism is vastly one wrapped in romance. Throughout the century, from victorian era onward, you have theatrical fakes, projecting out “magic” and such western unorthodox and “surface universal” systems unto this mythological timeline. When looking at these mens works and acts, it is easy to see that there is nothing to respect or listen to. Simply an act of rebellion within society to cause an effect pleasing to few.
Thus we walk into terms such as shamanism, magic, witchcraft, etc. If one can openly speak of such a thing in spiritual objectiveness, one has missed the point and should not speak. For there is little to say. Rehashing the ideas of new books means little. Putting western mythologies atop eastern spiritual beliefs does not create the term you speak of. There are many eastern beliefs of warrant, that have similarities, as we are all humans. Shinto is a good example, yet stands alone as Shinto. The aestic paths of the Hindu’s another, yet the watered down perspective of such cults in the western modern understanding is worth little mention. Hinduism while a mixture of an Indo-European mythology combined with native Indian mythology, is still an “Eastern” mythology. Shamanism of Siberia, as this is what Shamanism is. We use the term shamanism modernly, to apply to an understanding of many cultures. While similar “practice” can be seen in many lands, the terms would vary vastly throughout culture, as well as the expression of ritual. While all of these offer insights into the world of spirituality, they still stand as what they are, within their own culture. While many cultures may seek the same “thing” as humans, the expression of art belongs to said culture. Inspiring, yes. To be called a different term, no.
Historic Witchcraft is a sub section of European Christianity. A form of Folk Christianity and magical beliefs combined with medieval/renaissance/modern era folklore and evolved from Pagan influences. With variation across lands. Having many similarities, such as fairy belief, yet no set “way”. Many folk of the land would know more about local folklore than the mythology of the Bible. In a sense their “Folk Christianity” could be considered a sub section of Folklore and magic. Typical history is always written from the viewpoint and about the aristocracy. When studying the religion of Europe, one often studies the religion of the upper and “middle” class. This is an extremely small percentage of the spiritual understanding of a land. This is something to deeply understand in all aspects of historical and anthropological study… Some lands are far closer to their pagan timeline than others. There is “folkloric” healing,cursing, charming, protection, visions, shape shifting, projection, familiars, etc. existent in “backwater” regions of Europe during the past centuries from medieval to modern era, yet this is not necessarily witchcraft, as witchcraft is only such when accused or able to be accused. Therefore there is no set “way” of witchcraft. A multitude of folkloric elements and true beliefs that become demonized by Christian authorities, or sometimes demonized by practitioners. Witchcraft as a true term is only relevant to Europe, the “Europeans” of It’s colonies and Christianity, other cultures and lands falling under something different. Just as North American native priests were described by the English as being similar to witches, never witches themselves. Which also brings forth the insight that “witches” were doing something distinct and recognizable for such comparison. Too much to be written of here. Many folkloric elements of “witchcraft lands” are vastly gone, save common “things” that are found even in modern western society, such as ghosts, folk medicine, many abrahamic religious beliefs, etc. Yet at the same time in some “remote” lands in Europe there are still many “witch like” practices, if such authorities existed modernly and wished to accuse. Folkloric beliefs and aspects that involve animal sacrifice, herbal practices, protections, etc. These are all aspects of Folk Christianity, just as historic witchcraft was a form of Folk Christianity, inspired by evolved European Pagan folklore and ways. There is so much overlap, so much grey… To be inspired through a personal path of western pagan mythology modernly is not witchcraft. There is no such thing as systematic ritual magic, as in one plus one equals two. As the projection and empowerment of ones intent varies with each individual, alongside ever changing meanings and inspirations(empowerment) of various “ingredients.” Save technical substances with technically true aspects. The ritual is only for the self or those viewing and/or participating in the result of performance art. There are acts of social and solitude empowerment that each must find for themselves. Is one spiritually able to influence the world around them? Or is one forming a powerful course of action before action, thus influencing the world around them? Perhaps both? Ask oneself? Trance/Altered states open up a complicated web of understanding. Able to be viewed from the realms of psychology to the realms of spirituality and magic. Both seeking to express the same actual act, whether the trance itself or ‘spiritual projection’. This leads into the study of psychics and energy, whether old or new as is typically the case, whether from psychology or magic. This is the “foundation” of any magic use, attempts and results within all cultures, if viewing psychics and energy as cultureless. Such a belief, real magic, matters nothing of the opinions of others.
Modern witchcraft is what it is, yet equally is what it is not. There is large variation within such an expression. From those seeking to pull from historic understanding to those claiming expression from entirely different continents. From a liberal safe place of anything goes, to a conservative approach of secrecy and source seeking. What the neo-creators of many such paths created, has spun into something entirely different over the decades, to become a liberal movement that was never intended. There are inspirations from victorian theatrics in nearly all these paths that have nothing to do with any sort of continuation of real historic expression. Although victorian artistic expression is also an expression of past folklore, folklore an extension of past influences. Thus, whatever neo witchcraft is, it is also not. Just as the old, there is no set “way”. Nor a set expression of self. Neo witchcraft is a free for all of anything goes, recently pulling a modern political approach of liberality. Many practitioners expressing a practice of self empowering theatrics and artistic symbolism of others, that left to their own right carry no power. Another subject is of Hermeticism, what it was historically and everything it was not. Hermeticism (Hermes is not Wotan), Alchemy and Kabbalahish practices have nothing to do with Historic Witchcraft, and for the most part have little to do with the historic versions of themselves. As one will grasp unto the neo/victorian forms of such things, seeking continuation. A side note, the fantasy genre is not an expansion of folklore or mythology, it is the rape and butchery of folklore and mythology. On another end of the spectrum you have the “black mass” types. Who seek the past accusations cast from christianity, whether past accusations sometimes real or often pulled from tortured tongues. Simply seeking short lasting rebellion. For they believe the black metal they listen to, being a satanist, etc, is intimidating or powerful. A reminder of a few theatrical victorian fakes in an abstract way. Regardless, “some” of the neo-witchcraft spectrum. Not an extension of the historic.
There are many aspects of history continued through time, artistic and spiritual expression, cultural expression, etc. that have a place of timelessness. There are many that do not. As humans one must decide for themselves, time will decide the rest.
There is no such thing as modern Norse Paganism continued from were the old left off, especially the word Norse Shamanism people strangely use today. We know very little of real Norse Paganism, and what we do know, well, be careful. You are not viking, not even close. If you truly believe you are dealing with Odin, you may wish to take off the costume before viewing the mirror. This is not victorian fantasy. Celtic Paganism is even more lost. The word Druid that is used is strange. Having an earth centered spirituality is a very common and respectable thing within the world, nothing new, overlapping it atop celtic mythologies does not create Druidism. Yet it does create something new. This can go on and on. There are a multitude of “Eastern” European neo-pagan beliefs. While many of the spiritualities fall closer upon the timeline of paganism, especially the Baltic states, the same aspects of the west apply to the east. What you will find in many Eastern European countries is a closer relationship with folkloric beliefs far into the modern era, especially amongst the peasants as as opposed to many of the lands of western Europe. Although many lands of Western Europe were equally rooted in folkloric belief. This is not a continuation of paganism, it is folkloric belief, developed from paganism, combined with Christianity, the embodiment of development and time. A form of Folk Christianity. There is much to be explored in this understanding of Eastern European folklore and spirituality.
The modern esoteric paths are ripe and many. Many are falsehoods and fantasy, manipulations of history. Do the gods, ancestral spirits, psychological concepts, cultural values, embodiments of nature, whatever you desire to view, exist? Existence is never to be defined by human words. Men and women do seek this existence modernly. And therefore there is a “way” that exist because of this, if only a misguided trend for many. This is something new, disconnected from the old term, the old way. One must always understand this. There is no gap to be bridged of time, for a bridge requires sight of two sides. Yet in this newness there is existence. In existence it is to stay.
This is not to cast down the European myths, folklore and spirituality. This is to upbuild it with truth and stone. For there is great power within such ways. Great power to understand. To inspire, to move, to create. One must first take off the costume, the ignorance, the fantasy. Understand what is true of the world. Personal growth and enlightenment is something all men must find. Objective teaching and speaking of such a thing will forever be misunderstood, gaining respect from no one. For words do not create such a thing. As in every spiritual tradition, One must first consume ones self.
Art: Norse Shield Concept 2009