When a controversial polemic is written, heated responses are to be expected. My post entitled A Can of Worms is about the subject of Traditional Witchcraft in general and refers to a local example of this specifically. I have worked on this over the last few months and put a lot of time and effort into my research and learnt a lot. I spent considerable time making sure that this was written in a sensible, non-defamatory way that would be on a par with a review or magazine article. I was hoping for a robust debate around and into the whole subject – but this is the risk you take when you knowingly open up a can of worms – often there are negative reactions to deal with.
However, even though I’m not too surprised that this happened I do need to set the record straight about some incorrect personal accusations that have been directed my way. I will endeavour to keep this brief and to the point.
I do not publicly claim to be a Pellar nor do I consider myself to be a Traditional Witch. I am a Village Wisewoman and I have worked within my village for over 30 years. Nor have I claimed any direct continuity to any form of witchcraft practice.
It was Troy Books that approached me and offered to publish my book.
The ‘initiation’ witnessed was not to become a wisewoman – that rite was performed a couple of years later and not witnessed by any except the Old Ones. This was an act of dedication and the cord shown in the photo is not the same cord as in this rite.
It is true that Jack Daw performed the opening and closing ritual at our Handfasting with the help and interaction of our guests but to my knowledge did not include any writings from Gemma Gary. Our first choice and specifically chosen Celebrant came all the way from Scotland to conduct the rite – I wasn’t aware of any other ritual material being utilised from elsewhere.
It is news to me that I appear to be largely responsible for a revised edition of Traditional Witchcraft. I had assumed that she was updating her book to redress some inaccuracies that had already been highlighted by critical reviews of her original book. As for the Penglaz situation, it would take a small booklet to describe the ins and outs of all of that particularly petty political situation! Suffice to say that the reason given for the rewrite is both unjust and untrue.
Finally I would like to see evidence of these references to a so called ‘extensive web campaign’.
Now we have dealt with the more glaring inaccuracies and personal affronts, let’s concentrate on the response to the subject of the polemic. I suppose I should have expected that only part of my post would be shown on her link thereby lifting it out of context – see link entitled latest published attack (!) Following a few arbitrary and unnecessary insults the response starts off with the disclaimer that I had already referred to in my post.
“It’s really not good enough on one hand to write disclaimers that point towards the idiosyncratic approach of the many and varied magical practitioners in Cornwall; and then affirm and state with authority on practically every page that TCW is what Cornish witches do, and by inference have always done.”
What I am referring to here are the inferences and implications that are suggested within the publications – it’s very difficult to pin it down and maybe I have been clumsy in my attempts to highlight it, but it’s a genuine concern that I have. It’s almost like the disclaimer is thrown in and once that’s in place, it gives full permission to talk about what Cornish witches do with an assertion of authority. If I quoted how often the words Cornish Traditional witch appear together on practically all the pages we’d be here all night! Anyway there’s enough repetition of that phrase to warrant calling it a movement.
As previously stated:“There is much within the self proclaimed TCW to commend it from an aesthetic, evocative and creative point of view” and I have repeated this time after time. Her prose and ritual is beautifully evocative which is why I have been happy to utilise these in various theatre performances to good effect and had encouraged others to do similarly – however, given the circumstances, I think it might be wise to desist from this in the future. Incidentally, it should be realised that just because someone has created some wonderfully imaginative rituals, that doesn’t give them the right to claim monopoly on cord colours or ritual gestures.
I’m not going to bother commenting upon whether it’s good to work with the media or not because that is down to personal opinion, and as a result does not seem pertinent to this debate. However, to suggest that my contract with Troy Books was terminated because of others’ disapproval of interviews I’ve given throws up all sorts of questions.
These apprehensions about certain aspects of Traditional Witchcraft did not spring fully formed from my mind – it was an accumulative thing that grew over the last couple of years as I listened to and observed what was happening around me. Incrementally I began to notice an air of elitism, verbosity and superciliousness creeping into writings and interviews that I read about within Cornish Traditional Witchcraft that did not sit well with me. It is incorrect to state that I did not voice these misgivings because on occasions I did but this was met with awkward silences. So to suggest that this was never discussed is rather disingenuous.
I am saddened that there has been such hostility directed towards my partner as she didn’t write A Can of Worms, I did. Although we are partners it is well known that she doesn’t agree with me on everything! I was prepared for a backlash because of the observed changes of attitude already mentioned above, but I don’t feel it is fair for her to be attacked in this way.
Whilst we are on the subject of attitudes towards others, I find it offensive that in her quote from her blog, academic historians are described in such negative terms. First of all they are treated to the denigrating ‘inverted commas’ that suggest pseudo or so-called; then they are referred to as cold, which is certainly untrue about many that I have met – most of them are very passionate about their subject! Lastly to use the term autistic as a term of abuse is really not appropriate, and is an unfair comment on what is simply a different approach to research.
I have witnessed many negative situations within the Craft and especially the Pagan community which have mostly been driven by a heightened sense of emotionality that can cloud the real issues. The Pagan communities are notorious for back biting and petty jealousies – it’s called ‘Bitchcraft’. It’s not a world I inhabit anymore – my community is my village, my friends and other animals. My practice lies with dealing with everyday problems of ordinary folk and that is my role within my community. I am fortunate enough to be practicing a craft which is of interest to historians and anthropologists so I enjoy discourse with them – there’s a lot we can learn from each other. I also find it very refreshing to talk with people who keep a cool and rational head when discussing contentious issues. I don’t understand why there is this knee-jerk reaction to academic enquiry – if your tradition/craft/practice is genuine it will stand up to scrutiny. To me witchcraft is so pragmatic and down-to-earth; I don’t understand why all these confusing terms have crept into common or garden everyday folk magic/care in the community. In a sense I come from the Granny Weatherwax mindset and I ‘can’t be doing with’ all this fuss and bother – I’m not interested in ‘winning’, I’m concerned with doing ‘what’s right’. In one sense, I don’t care a jot what tradition people follow so long as they are following their heart and spirit rather than their egos; however I would prefer it if I wasn’t looked down upon by others for doing this.
I can’t predict what will happen as a result of this, but at least the worms are free rather than being cooped up in a tin – and maybe I should have taken more notice of the label ‘Handle with Care – Could be Poisonous!’
Note to Self: I really must try to stop ‘lurking’ in my photos in the future… 🙂