A thing I’ve learned over the years is that I learned a lot about writing because I was an early reader who fell into books like a fish into the ocean. While I did have spelling lessons, I can’t recall a single extended grammar lesson and have never — as an example — diagrammed a sentence. Most of my vocabulary has come from reading as well, from inferring the meaning through how the author used the word.
I’m telling you this because I’ve been mulling over the supposed dichotomy between modern and ancient witchcraft a lot as I’ve been traveling around Ireland the last several weeks. As a starter, lets make sure we all know the meaning of the word dichotomy:
A division or contrast between two things that are or are represented as being opposed or entirely different.
e.g., “a rigid dichotomy between science and mysticism”*
I don’t think how I (or most) modern witches practice our Craft looks much like what ancient witchcraft looked like. If nothing else, they lived a far more precarious life than we do. Just think, a small shift in weather could devastate a community, seasonal changes were far more obvious, and there were no vaccines to ward off illness. At the same time, they were far more attuned to the natural energy than we can hope to be, surrounded by plastic and metal as we are.
But, just as science and mysticism are far more similar than different when you dig down, what all of us witches are doing is the same: using the energy of the natural world to nudge things just a bit into a path that makes things better. Better for us, for our families, our loved ones, our community, the world.
A witch from 3000 years ago could stand with me in sacred space and we would know what each other was doing with energy, we could push it together into a chosen path, and we would understand the Mysteries of each other’s knowledge.
I looked into a Court Cairn and Tomb where bodies had been cremated millennia ago and knew that my infinitely-great ancestors likely were there in that (or a similar) place. I knew they had been laid with love and reverence, burned so they could return to the land from which we derive our life. I saw that a recent offering had been made, likely at Lughnasa just at the beginning of August** and knew then that this ancient site remained sacred even now.
*Definition from Oxford Languages, online.
** Lugnasa was publicly celebrated in Ireland as late as the 1950s.