It would seem that, in these modern times, it would be rather easy to study witchcraft in America. Nearly every bookstore has a metaphysical section, filled with a wide selection of books written for witches, by witches. Not to mention, the gobs of websites and blogs created every day. However, this preponderance of information has begun to backfire. There is now so much of it, that there's really no way to know who's right and who's off their broom.
The real trouble lies in the fact that modern witchcraft is based on theories and speculation as to what witches were really like centuries ago, mixed with modern science and the human desire for spiritual fulfillment. However, no texts from the early days of witchcraft survived into these times. They've all been destroyed during religious conquests, or ferreted away to avoid such a fate. So modern witches take from the history books, and the works of famed psychics, who managed to avoid the noose by claiming their predictions were scientifically based, and build a practice out of it.
As we've only been doing so, out in the open, for a little over 50 years, and the number of people interested in the craft is so great, many witches are making up their own versions of witchcraft, and passing it off as a viable "tradition." They get away with it by claiming that witchcraft is all about what "feels right" to the individual, and not subscribing to any doctrine. But, if that's really the case, why do all these individuals feel it's necessary to publish books on their own made up traditions?
I've been studying witchcraft for a little over 25 years now, and I've come to realize that my brain is about to explode. If I read one more opinion on the proper way to cast a circle, I really think it will. I value other people's opinions, I really do - and I hope people value mine, otherwise, they shouldn't be reading this - but I'm tired of picking up a new book and having it tell me I've been doing everything wrong.
If witchcraft really is about doing what's right for the individual, and not creating a doctrine, why do so many authors do just that?
For the past few months, I've been flirting with the idea of writing my own book on witchcraft. Hey, everyone else is doing it. Why not me? But the more I study, the more I realize that there is very little that hasn't already been said. And the very little is this:
You're all right!
Now that that's out of the way, I can go back to spending my weekends frolicking naked in the forest, instead of trying to cram every idea in my brain onto my computer.
The thing is, there's really no way of know who's right and who's wrong. If it feels like you've got it right, than you do - for yourself. If it feels like you're doing it wrong, sure, pick up a book and gather some ideas. But don't expect to become an adept witch from reading the entire metaphysical section of your local Barnes and Noble.
When I was in study mode, about six years back, I wanted to get my hands on every craft book I could, so I consulted to Suggested Reading sections in the back of the books I already had. Being a bit of a computer nerd, I began creating a master list, compiling every Suggested Reading list from every book, as well as books suggested by friends. I now have a list 133 pages long - size 10 font, single spaced, of every book recommended that I don't already own. I don't have enough time in this life to get through all of those, I really don't. And, though I'm always open to new ideas, I don't think I need to know that many people's opinions on a subject I already feel so confident about.
I write my own rituals. I write my own quarter calls and invocations. I'm not creating a traditions, I'm just doing what feels right to me. So, I guess that means I'm doing it "the right way." And anyone who was to look at my work and tell me I had it all wrong would also be doing witchcraft "the right way." I'd just consider them a snob.
Best wishes to all those who choose to find their own path.