BOOK OF SHADOWS: ORAL TRADITION AND THE WRITTEN WORD

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BOOK OF SHADOWS: ORAL TRADITION AND THE WRITTEN WORD

Postby Admin » Fri Jun 16, 2017 3:02 pm

Do all these books on Witchcraft (and related subjects) make the traditional way of learning Wicca—through studying with a coven or a Craft elder—no longer necessary?

If you want to follow the old ways, an important part of your spiritual path will consist of reading up on the Craft and related subjects. But it takes more than reading books to become a Witch. In the words of Lady Galadriel, a Wiccan elder of the Unicorn Tradition and editor of The New Wiccan Book of the Law, “Books may reveal the secrets of Witchcraft. But they cannot ever reveal the mysteries. A mystery can only be experienced.” To become a Witch requires both knowledge of Wiccan secrets and the direct experience of Wiccan mysteries.

Look at it this way: If a person read The Joy of Sex and any number of other books on sexuality but had never felt the pounding of two hearts while kissing and embracing a loved one, could that person truly be called an accomplished lover?

Of course not. The books may provide all sorts of erotic knowledge, but without the experience of actually making love, a person remains a virgin. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with being a virgin. But until someone experiences the beauty of love, reading all the sex books in the world is nothing more than an exercise of the mind.

The same principle applies to Goddess spirituality. There are two ways to gain knowledge of the old ways, through the written word and through one or more teachers of the Craft. Anyone who is interested in Wicca will probably enjoy reading all they can on the subject and will also likely enjoy classes, especially if taught by a knowledgeable and responsible teacher. But amassing knowledge is only half of the process of embracing the Goddess. The other half comes from experience. This includes experience with ritual, meditation, vision quest, initiation, and psychic development. Of course, every person’s path is unique, and what I require to become mature in my spiritual path may not be the same as what you require. Nevertheless, it takes more than just reading a book to master the Craft of the Wise.

Some people more naturally pursue the experiential side of spirituality, enjoying spellwork, trancework, and other hands on activities. Others more naturally prefer to immerse themselves into the esoteric knowledge that can only be gained through study, whether reading books, working with a teacher, or both. Sometimes it’s easy to focus on just one of these paths, the experiential or the intellectual; and often a seeker will choose one and ignore the other. So some people read tons of books but never seek out the direct experience of Pagan spirituality. Others immerse themselves in the experience but avoid the work of book-learning.

I’d like to encourage you to seek balance here. Read all you can. But know when to put the books down and experience the wisdom of the Craft. Balance intellectual knowledge with heartfelt experience.

Of teachers and tradition

Traditionally, Wiccan ways were passed down orally, from mother to daughter, from teacher to student, from master to apprentice. I believe studying under the guidance of a good teacher remains the single best way to learn Witchcraft. Many Craft elders not only possess vast amounts of knowledge but also understand how to use and apply that knowledge in the service of the Goddess and the God. The best teachers know how to perform rituals that inspire, spells that work, and magick that truly transforms. In studying with such a teacher, you will learn and experience things that no book could ever teach you.

But for a variety of reasons, not everyone has access to a good teacher. Among other things, Wicca is growing so fast that there are more students eager to learn than there are qualified teachers to train them. If you are in a position where you don’t have access to a teacher, do not despair.

Francesca De Grandis, a Wiccan elder of the Third Road Tradition and the author of Be a Goddess!, says, “A good teacher and an ardently seeking student cannot be replaced by a good book and an ardently seeking student. But, good teachers are not always available, and I will suggest a good book before a bad teacher.”

Even without a qualified elder to teach you, you can still take responsibility for your Wiccan education by reading and doing experiential work such as meditation and ritual. Indeed, that’s why elders like De Grandis have written books; they recognize there are more willing students than they personally could ever reach. Just remember: Without a teacher, you have to be your own master. The process of learning still requires actually reading the book, taking notes, doing the exercises (many Wiccan books have numerous practical exercises to do), and doing research to answer any questions that may arise. All this, while keeping knowledge in perspective with experience as you progress along your spiritual path.

It’s easy to see why so many Wiccan elders continue to advocate learning the Craft from a teacher rather than just through books. “Oral tradition is based in direct individualized feedback from elders,” notes Francesca De Grandis. Lady Galadriel concurs. “Until they invent the book that can talk back and answer your questions, a teacher is irreplaceable.”

Controversy

I know of Wiccan elders who do not like to recommend books to their students. They think reading books can get in the way of the more important quest for spiritual experience.

On the other hand, some Wiccan books encourage the reader to perform self-initiation rituals and to value their own intuition above tradition when it comes to walking the Wiccan path.

Therein lies a controversy. What is the proper role of the written word in a tradition that, historically, has been passed down orally? With so many books getting published on Wicca and magick, and with so many newcomers to Pagan spirituality relying on books to educate themselves, with or without a mentor, perhaps books are actually doing more harm than good? If new Pagans are not bothering to learn tradition, but are simply reading a book or two and deciding that’s all it takes to be a Witch, perhaps all these books are actually undermining the very religion they supposedly are promoting.

On the other hand, perhaps the explosion of books is neither good nor bad, but simply a new and different way for the secrets to being transmitted?

My purpose in pointing out this controversy is not to take sides (although I personally take a moderate position, which I will explain below). But in writing about Wiccan books, I felt that I needed to acknowledge this issue. I think it represents growing pains in the Craft community. Like I said above, there are more eager students than there are qualified teachers. Part of the reason why there are so many students is because of all the Wiccan books that have come out in the last 20 or so years.

The books get people interested in the old ways, but it takes more than reading a book to become a Witch—and yet, for many people, reading a book is the only education they’ll get.

If some books imply that teachers aren’t necessary, and some teachers suggest that books aren’t necessary, where is the best path to maturity in the Craft?

Through experience. And ultimately, your experience is a personal matter between you and the Goddess and the God. Reading a book does not necessarily translate into spiritual experience. Studying with a teacher does not necessarily translate into spiritual experience, either (although a teacher has the advantage of providing personalized feedback).

I cannot resolve the tension between oral tradition and written words in this little book. But I think the best position involves honoring both books and teachers for what they do best. Books transmit knowledge efficiently and enjoyably. They’re easier on the eyes than a computer screen, and work equally well whether you’re in bed, on the sofa, or in an airplane.

Meanwhile, working with a qualified teacher is the best strategy for mastering the experiential side of Wicca. If you don’t have access to a good teacher, you can still pursue the experiential, but it takes just as much self-discipline and dedicated effort as required when working with a teacher. Maybe even more.

So I recommend a combination of enjoying the many books on Witchcraft and related subjects, along with working with a qualified teacher, as the best way to practice Wiccan spirituality. If you don’t currently have access to a good teacher, perhaps in the future that opportunity will arise. Meanwhile, keep reading—and doing experiential work, like meditation and ritual. Seek knowledge of the secrets and experience of the mysteries. That is the path to becoming a Witch.

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witchy_curious
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Re: BOOK OF SHADOWS: ORAL TRADITION AND THE WRITTEN WORD

Postby witchy_curious » Thu Sep 14, 2017 4:02 pm

This is not black magick, is about wiccan witchcraft.

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murph241
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Re: BOOK OF SHADOWS: ORAL TRADITION AND THE WRITTEN WORD

Postby murph241 » Wed Oct 11, 2017 11:21 pm

witchy_curious wrote:This is not black magick, is about wiccan witchcraft.


It is true, but also is a great contribution.

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Invictous2012
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Re: BOOK OF SHADOWS: ORAL TRADITION AND THE WRITTEN WORD

Postby Invictous2012 » Sat Oct 21, 2017 8:56 pm

Very interesting. I wish there were more articles and posts of this type. But more focused on black magic.

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southamp
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Re: BOOK OF SHADOWS: ORAL TRADITION AND THE WRITTEN WORD

Postby southamp » Fri Nov 03, 2017 1:08 pm

Does anyone have a Book of Shadows in pdf format? I'm looking on internet and I do not find anything good.


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