Necessary Rebuttals

This post is a response to ‘A Response to Bruised Egos’ which was recently posted on  Click on the following link to read: A Response to Bruised Egos

Necessary Rebuttals

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…  🙂


16 thoughts on “Necessary Rebuttals

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  1. Cassandra,

    This is excellent. A reasoned, calm, considered and level response. Just what it needs to be.

    I can’t imagine there was anyone who didn’t think that Gary had gone way too far with that one.

  2. I’m finding it rather amusing that I cannot leave a comment or send an email to Garys website. Obviously she has something to hide from.

  3. Well done for managing to write this so well Cassandra I know it was difficult to do as you have other urgent matters on your mind. I am shocked at these insults coming from someone who I thought was a close friend, so sad. 😦 xx

  4. I am amused to find that I apparently plagiarised a book I’ve never heard of to write Cassandra and Tia’s Handfasting ceremony.

    It makes me wonder where that material actually originates from, since all I used to write it was material that I have written since 1997, readily available poetry and readings from a variety of sources, and the odd snippet from books specifically on Handfasting. Plus new writing I came up with specifically for this ceremony. Draw your own conclusions…

    1. How time flies! 🙂 This clip was 14 years ago when I was still referring to myself as a village witch. Towards the end of 2000 I started to call myself a village wisewoman as I had then entered cronehood. Following research into the meaning of the word Pellar I stopped using the term. Previously I thought it just meant a Cornish word for what I did but I was mistaken. This is why nowadays ‘I do not publicly claim to be a Pellar’.

  5. your blog is really excellent. it inspires the readers who have that great desire to lead a better and happier life. thanks for sharing this information and hope to read more from you.

  6. I too enjoy cool headed debate of contentious issues. I agreed with the article, A can of worms and feel it can be applied to much regarding the traditions of small communities across the Celtic Isles where traditions and facilities that have been long standing and fuctional but perhaps not quite as romantic in form or practice as new comers have hoped they would be, get polished up and become then the preserve of a local elite as long standing residents then cease to recognise their own tradition.
    This is not to say that all traditional revivalists do this, some simply and well meaningly breathe life into neglected local practises and take great pleasure in seeing the whole community enjoy them again.

  7. Merry meet Cassandra.

    It is such a shame that your work has come under attack and yourself personally. I have enjoyed reading your blogs. I have joined your face book page and have ordered a copy of your book.

    Having come across egotistical folk in the pagan community, I have decided I want no part. Am enjoying learning and walking my path helping others without having to mix with people who do not want to share and learn, but want to bolster their own egos.

    It can be very lonely sometimes, but I love animals more than people. You are very honest and people do not like that. At least though you attract the right people by being honest. Thank you for your teachings, straight to the point fabulous.

    1. Thank you for your kind comments Sharon. I do tell the truth and it’s true it seems to get me into trouble sometimes, but I have found that is the only way I can be. Even when it gets stressful as a result, at least I can go to bed each night with a clear conscience!

      1. You are most welcome Cassandra. I am also honest and it does get me into trouble also. I do love your tool for casting. Did you make it yourself?

  8. For the information of the readers, Gemma Gary and partner moved to Launceston Cornwall in early 2018, but the website still gives the impression that they are still living and working in West Cornwall.

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