Witchcraft Yesterday and Today

| 10/30/2012 10:22:57 AM


On every full moon, pagan rituals take place on hilltops, on beaches, in open fields and in ordinary houses. Writers, teachers, nurses, computer programmers, artists, lawyers, poets, plumbers, and auto mechanics—women and men from many backgrounds—come together to celebrate the mysteries of the Triple Goddess of birth, love, and death, and of her Consort, the Hunter, who is Lord of the Dance of Life. The religion they practice is called Witchcraft.

Witchcraft is a word that frightens many people and confuses many others. In the popular imagination, Witches are ugly old hags riding broomsticks, or evil Satanists performing obscene rites. Modern witches are thought to be members of a kooky cult, which lacks the depth, dignity, and seriousness of purpose of a true religion.

But Witchcraft is a religion, perhaps the oldest religion in the West. Its origins go back before Christianity, Judaism, Islam, before Buddhism and Hinduism. The Old Religion, as we call it, is closer in spirit to Native American traditions or to the shamanism of the Inuit people of the Arctic. It is not based on dogma or a set of beliefs, nor on scriptures or a sacred book revealed by a great man. Witchcraft takes its teachings from nature and reads inspiration in the movements of the sun, moon, and stars, in the flight of birds, in the slow growth of trees, and in the cycles of the seasons.

The worship of the Great Goddess, which is at the heart of Witchcraft, underlies the beginnings of all civilizations. Mother Goddess was carved on the walls of Paleolithic caves and sculpted in stone as early as 25,000 B.C. In 7000 B.C., cities arose in Asia Minor that developed a rich, Goddess-centered culture, combining agriculture, hunting, and early crafts, in which women were leaders. From excavations done in the 1960s, we get a picture of an egalitarian, decentralized, inventive, and peaceful society, without evidence of human or animal sacrifice or weapons of war.

Similar cultures flourished in the civilizations of Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece, India, Central America, South America, and China. For the Mother, giant stone circles, the henges of the British Isles, were raised. For Her the great passage graves of Iceland were dug. In Her honor sacred dancers leaped the bulls in Crete. Grandmother Earth sustained the soil of the North American prairies, and Great Mother Ocean washed the coasts of Africa. Her priestesses discovered and tested the healing herbs and learned the secrets of the human mind and body that allowed them to ease the pain of childbirth, to heal wounds and cure diseases and to practice magic, which I like to define as the “art of changing consciousness at will.”

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