From Behind the Shadow Veil: The Rise of Traditionalist Witchcraft

There is a tremor rumbling through human consciousness that is only becoming more and more noticeable with each passing year. The status quo in terms of political, social and spiritual discourse is beginning to crack and ideas which have been buried for decades (sometimes even centuries) are finding their way into conversations when they wouldn’t have before. Over the years I have had an increasing interest in authentic magical and occult practices, and I do not seem to be alone. When I first began researching such things as I was moving from childhood and into adolescence, much of the discourse on topics magical and spiritual were held within the domain of the New Age movement. This can best be described essentially as a subculture and umbrella religion that has been carefully controlled and cultivated in its message so as to provide an outlet for dissatisfaction with the cold and calculated nature of our bureaucratic society, while still keeping one locked in the globalist mindset, specifically touting the mantra of “we are all one”. Nowadays, however, this is not so much the case. At the time when I began to research such topics, the internet was becoming prevalent, but still had less influence on public consciousness than mass media and what folk could find in their local library, if they bothered to look (sad to say, I never did). However, with the rise of social media and its eclipsing of television and newspapers as primary sources of information (particularly for younger generations), ideas which were previously filtered through the New Age movement, such as shamanism, magic and the use of entheogens are now shared within the context of exploring tradition, which has become particularly important to those of European descent.

One of the reasons that shamans were so fascinating to Western anthropologists was that our society had no real equivalent to such people. We had doctors, pharmacists, priests and other such professions (which are rolled into one within the shaman), but no ‘witch doctors’, who relied on spells and enchanted objects as part of their healing skills. This is because such ideas had been expunged from our society as part of the destruction of our folk heritage during the Burning Times, and so all that was left in the following 18th, 19th and 20th centuries was a secularized and distorted understanding of medicine and science. Therefore, those who went to study other cultures where this had not occurred found peoples who were ‘superstitious’, meaning that they engaged in magical thinking with regards to illness and cure. Shamans are typically animists, and so they see every living thing as possessed of a spirit, in addition to disembodied spirits which live in other dimensions and may have beneficial, detrimental or parasitic effects on humans.

Diseases are not seen to be caused by bacteria and viruses, but by vulnerable spots in one’s aura through which parasitic entities can drain your energy on the astral plane, which weakens the immune system and allows harmful microorganisms to proliferate, while your body’s attempt to fight these invaders manifests as symptoms. This is remedied not only with the use of healing herbs to strengthen the body, but also with talismans (which may also be the root of a herb) and chanting, to restore the balance of one’s energies and heal a broken aura. While such practices certainly require the power of imagination, it is not enough to simply ‘make things up’ in order to properly cure an illness. A knowledge of sacred words and tones in the human voice (something which can be aided by study of the runes) that resonate with the vibrations within a person is required in addition to a pharmacological knowledge of herbs and their effects.

The awareness of these practices among foreign peoples remained restricted mainly to academia, and were simply unavailable to most people, and various folk remedies that survived throughout the Modern era have been dismissed as ‘superstition’ and ‘auld wife’s tales’. This changed with the social upheaval that occurred in the 1960s, when disillusioned youths took to exploration of consciousness through mind-altering drugs, sexuality and spirituality. Tales of shamans in Tropical Mexico who took hallucinogenic mushrooms as part of their healing rituals and of sadhus (holy men) in India who imbibed cannabis to aid meditation became part of a cultural craze in the West, which was spurred on and accompanied by social alienation and rebellion against established authority. Experimentation with drugs and the native rituals associated with them led to an increase of interest in the occult, which had not been as strong since before the Second World War. This was reflected in emerging styles of music, as the psychedelic influenced rock music became more and more associated with the occult with references to Satanism and paganism.

Unfortunately, because the mass media still had influence over most people at the time, such practices degenerated into drug abuse and promiscuity as there was little information available on how to do such things properly. As these people were demonized by the media, their ideas were pushed further and further away from public consciousness, and the response from the United States and most other governments around the world was to ban the drugs that had become associated with the hippie movements, namely psychedelics. Cannabis had already been made illegal in the United Kingdom in the 1920s, though this was more to do with the interests of companies that produced pharmaceuticals, paper and plastic that felt threatened by the newly discovered uses for cannabis and hemp for all of these things, which would have been so cheap that there would be less need to rely on the extraction of oil and wood or on the production of synthetic pharmaceuticals.

The movement against the use of psychedelics and cannabis by the establishment meant that public support for the anti-war movement waned, as such ideas became associated with drug abuse and criminality. In response to the proliferation of heroin in the drug scene by gangs that ended up selling cannabis and psychedelics on the black market (as a result of criminalization), some hippies responded by becoming careless and overdosing people on psychedelics in an attempt to compete with the gangs pushing harder drugs. The terrible experiences that resulted from a lack of consideration for purpose, preparation and setting turned most ordinary folk away from using such substances, and so they became associated with a criminal subculture which sometimes led to the use of harder drugs. The New Age movement is not necessarily associated with drug use (in fact, most New Age practitioners advise against it), but it is evident that it arose from the turbulence associated with the transition from the 1960s into the 70s, and many who have an interest in New Age subjects also use cannabis or psychedelics. This subculture is generally associated with right-brained (emotionally driven) perceptions, the worship of pagan gods, the practice of Asian expressions of spiritual traditions such as yoga and meditation and experiencing spirituality as an individual.

However, despite the fact that this subculture is somewhat removed from mass society, there is still an association by those that are part of the movement with establishment ideals such as leftism and feminism, in addition to others that are against the establishment, like environmentalism. The New Age belief is a synthesis of ideas which takes from authentic tradition (such as the eight ‘sabbats’ in Wicca, which are based on Celtic and Germanic high festivals), but watered down to accommodate the Modern lifestyle (since Wicca was founded for the express purpose of promoting nudism, not paganism). It is something that provides a loosening from the control of your mind, but which still maintains its hold. Most mainstream ‘pagan’ organizations in the West today have explicitly multiculturalist, homo-normative and feminist ideals as part of their philosophies, which gives a conflicting and contradictory impression of paganism to most people. Paganism is the religion of the folk, and it does not extend to other peoples outside of a common acknowledgement of the gods and spirits. Certain esoteric traditions contain philosophies which transcend collective identities and are available to all peoples, but the common religion has always been based on shared heritage. The names and archetypes of deities are unique to each culture and do not translate precisely into others.

For example, Wotan is the chief deity and a god of war in Germanic culture, but in the Egyptian tradition his scribal and eloquent attributes are more heavily emphasized in the form of Thoth. Both gods are based on the same archetype but are also specific to each culture and can be seen as separate entities. The same goes for traditions in different countries, where one culture’s understanding of the significance and attributes of a certain plant or animal may differ from another. In the West, black is used to represent death, but in China they see white as a better colour to express this concept. This is why in authentic traditions, the practices consist of innovations by the people within a particular culture rather than from outside it. What works for one person might not work for another, and the same is true with the various races and peoples of the world. Universalist religions preach equality because it means that they can gain a monopoly on the minds of more people, by convincing them that they are all the same as long as they hold the same beliefs. However, you cannot make different peoples believe the same thing, as their inherent differences will be expressed through believing different things. The irony of most Neopagan attitudes is that they unwittingly promote ideals intended to erode their own traditions while basing their religious practices on such traditions.

Fortunately, this is beginning to change. Many of us have started to see that the demands for resources caused by mass immigration, for example, are in conflict with environmentalism, and that there is an inconsistency and hypocrisy in having empathy for other cultures, but disdain or apathy towards one’s own, especially if you consider yourself a ‘pagan’. At the moment, Folkish pagans are in the minority among those that consider themselves to be followers of the old gods, but changing political and social attitudes are having an impact on these movements. My own awakening to such ideas coincided with my study of entheogens alongside archaeology and history. What began as a curiosity about the altering of consciousness became a stronger interest in the traditions of my ancestors and in preserving my heritage. Working with sacred plants helps to get us in touch with Nature and discover her secrets, the old ways have a new appeal to those of us that see our society as almost completely disconnected from her. This practice goes beyond simply being escapist or making life in Modern society bearable enough to ignore its problems (as is the case with drug addiction and indulgence in Hollywood media), but seeks to actively restore and heal our currently decrepit human state with what has been missing from our society for hundreds of years.

The spirits are calling us from other worlds, and we can hear them better than before. We realize that we cannot simply dip our toes in the water in an attempt to fill our religious or philosophical needs o a superficial level, but that we have to embrace the Way and find out how to make these practices work today. Nature provides all of our needs, and there are many hidden cures for common ailments. Aside from the mainly psychological uses of illegal drugs such as psychadelics, physical problems can be solved by plants that can easily be grown or found in the wild. The bark from water elder can be used to ease menstrual cramps, while nightshades such as henbane and belladonna can be used to treat asthma and eczema. Even more mild herbs such as nettle can be drunk regularly for a variety of problems. As a reslt of the renwed interest in authentic practices, there is now more information than ever before on the internet about the uses of herbs in folk medicine and magical rituals. Sometimes this involves working with dangerous plants (recipes for ointments used for astral projection contained wolfsbane, the most poisonous herb in Europe), which has made such practices unappealing to most Neopagans.

However, with careful study and knowledge, one can reduce the harmful side effects of such dangerous chemicals, by knowing which plants counter their effects. The main principle is to be deliberate in intent, to know what you are working with such plants to achieve and how to go about it. When you see all plants and animals as beings in their own right, you learn to develop more respect for them, particularly the hallucinogenic ones, whose psychoactive effects on humans are a sign of high intelligence in the plant or mushroom. One thing to remember for those serious about engaging in ‘shamanic’ practices is that you do not interact with such organisms for fun, but that you work with them to achieve some sort of magical or medicinal benefit. As this is an exchange process, the spirit of the plants will also want certain things from you before they agree to work with you. This may include fasting, abstinence or a more general display of self-discipline before imbibing sacred plants and fungi. It should be stressed that in this context, the use of drugs for recreational as opposed to medicinal or spiritual uses is a sign of abuse, and will inhibit one’s ability to perform magical rituals properly, as the draining of energy that results from addiction and laziness means that you have less energy to put into your magic. The main demand from magical practice is self-mastery, to act as an adept of magic rather than the servant to desires or ideas. This also involves acting and thinking independently of any external authority, be it the public consensus or whatever religion you happen to be a part of.

Traditional witchcraft and Folkish paganism are still small movements within the wider counterculture, and are overshadowed by their ‘safe-bet’ counterparts in the form of Wicca and Neopaganism, but there is a growing interest in these subjects that goes beyond the modified forms of accepted norms offered by New Age beliefs. Cultural and racial awareness is taking hold all across the world, and part of this has to do with the availability of such resources on the internet. Not only can you study the culture and traditions of other countries, but also your own, which may have significance to somebody from another country but with a shared heritage (such as that between the British and Irish and many North Americans and Australasians). Over time, ‘paganism’ will become more and more associated with having a sense of identity through heritage and culture among all peoples, and the Universalist outlook which has dominated the New Age scene for the last half century will diminish. Those who are so abhorred by the ideas of self-determination and racial pride will abandon the idea of paganism in order to avoid being associated with ideas that they find repulsive, while those who value their traditions and ancestors more than mainstream society will only make our movement stronger by turning on their programmed beliefs and embracing freedom of expression and to go against what is considered ‘socially acceptable’ to say and do in our repressed society. While this is the result that we want, we will have to be wary of the authoritarians and their response, and it is possible that such a strong Folkish movement could end with an attempt to foist an oppressive Neo-Marxist or Islamic regime on our folk in order to combat what they see as “the rise of the racist far-right”. However, since the customs and values that we hold are those derived from the folk itself, it is likely that we will have those that have at least some awareness of their own heritage and do not see it as a bad thing will be on our side. They can’t get away with burning us at the stake, but they will try every way they can to shut down the threat of self-determination by using the media to turn the public against us. Thankfully, less of us watch television and read newspapers these days and more of us care about having freedom of religion, speech and expression.

Wulf Willelmson

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