I loved this interview of Lee Morgan by Gordon White for his Rune Soup podcast.
Lee is a traditional witch and author, currently living in Tasmania.
The conversation goes through the importance of folklore, and of ‘finding the others’.
The spirit of witchcraft having an undefinable element, unwrite-able, that can have facts, figures, dates and sources (as does druidry) that give an image or artefact frozen in time, but it also has an ability to transmit and pick up new pieces along the way
“It cannot be reductively linearised”
Following the historical line of artefacts and documents leads a high degree of fraudulency because of the way we do history.
“It is not something like a bureau that you inherit”.
This leads to the thinking that if a tradition is created purely from historical documents and facts to the exclusion of any other sources, then it is creating a relic, something that is dead rather than living.
There is also the point running parallel with BDO druidry concerning the evolution of a definition of what TW (or druidry) is –
As humans we naturally want to maximise the things that make our lives more comfortable, and these are things that we will want to copy down from history and replicate, bolstering the things that aid in making human life better, but at the same time very importantly we are seeing a resurgence of people wanting to associate themselves with what the word ‘witch’ means – that we are living in a time where increasingly we’re recognising that what’s good for humans isn’t the whole picture and that what is good for ecosystems and wilderness and what it’s good for what people who view the world animisticaly might say as “otherworldly forces” is just as important, if not more important to the future goings-on of our species… … As a species we have to acknowledge that there are keepers of balance that perform certain functions, and we might not like it and that’s too bad. It’s not all about us upright apes and what we want out of life, there’s a whole bunch of other forces and other things that we’ve come out of balance with … and this resurgence is like an immune response.
More on the bio-regionality of TW which could also apply to druidry…
I’d try and resist over-defining what these things are at this point in time . I would say it’s reasonably good advice, and I think it also gives a bit of respect to the bioregional aspect of witchcraft that there aren’t many overarching things you can say about it. That respects the place-ness of it, you know the the rooted in place aspect of it, other people’s traditional witchcraft might not look like mine and so I like to try to keep it you know fairly simple in those definition terms because it is diverse
I also like the account that Lee recalls of how he came to live in Tasmania, from a time when there were a lot of options open for him and his partner to move, so he did a visual divination to get what the place looked like, and then just had to find that place in the world – and he did… I can relate to this myself, after the death of my father meant that I had lost my connection to the older generation of my family, and the ties that come with that, I went out into the hills and did a vision quest and had a strong visual message of a direction for my life, which I then followed, and achieved five years later…
Leading on to talking about visionary experiences… and this is something that I hear a lot of druids struggling with at least at the beginning of their journey…
What else should ‘the sight’ be called, and why?
Now… the recognizing, the noticing – I think that we get too sight fixated and I guess that comes back to my assertion that I feel witchcraft is pre-verbal at some level.
There are all of the senses wrapped up in an experience of that otherworld and people get so fixated on seeing spirits, particularly because in the media it’s often depicted as being able to see people as clearly as what you and I are, sitting here now, and of course there are some people who experience that, but it can lead away from people not noticing the multi-faceted nature…
… I think paying attention to detail and noticing, is a huge part of magical training that often doesn’t get enough air time. I think that it comes from anxiety to be
honest. I think most people are too wound up to be fully noticing , and I think that’s
why in nature – because we come down away from all that human to human anxiety and you start to settle and then when you settle you start to notice with all of your senses.
This is one of the reasons that the BDO bardic course starts by teaching meditation and emphasising being out in nature, to calm that anxiety so that we can notice .
Gordon White also makes the point about learning from plant teachers – that they are there physically, you don’t have to summon them from another dimension or use sight based visionary skills, but you do have to go out into nature to interact with them and get an emotional, feeling response, so this is a good place to start, from that perspective.
I think it takes quite a humility as well for people to de-centre the idea that advanced consciousness must come in a form that resembles us, along with ditching the anxiety in the body – I don’t just mean mental chatter but the actual stored anxiety in the body.
The next step to opening that, is the humility to recognise that something which we have traditionally been taught to think of as a lesser life form may have an incredibly advanced networked intelligence that predates our own.
I also like how the description of Lees new book ‘Standing and not Falling’ is set over 13 moons, and how it is set up comes across as quite similar to how our own bardic course should be used and what it can achieve within a person.
There is also talk of shame and witchcraft, which is about the science/spirituality divide. So on one hand science is now starting to move into a direction that acknowledges that near-death experiences, psi, and other phenomenon that people have been experiencing for millennia actually exist (Thanks!), there is an element of keeping personal experiences and practices quiet due to coming up against a scientific or materialist viewpoint and having to defend your experiences from a scientific or materialist viewpoint using debating skills, which is the opposite of what is beneficial for witchcraft to thrive. It is the battle between left brain and right brain.
I feel that shame is a social disciplinary tool which is used to keep us in our place, and one of the places that we’ve been told to inhabit is a non-magical framework, and I can remember even just like how I was saying – that I was surrounded by superstition growing up, but it was really really difficult to get my grandmother to talk about her superstitions because she had been shamed. Like she’d been told that she was uneducated and that she believed these things because she didn’t know any better.
… shame has been used in so many ways to put everything into hierarchical organisations, with exterior over interior, and ego over whatever else dwells within, which is not ego, the hidden. And logic over emotion, instinct and intuition.
There’s so many shame related things that we have to overcome to really delve into this practice because unlike a lot of other forms of Western esotericism it doesn’t yield quite so well, like where we started this conversation in the whole ‘define it’ kind of thing.
It doesn’t yield quite so well to a debate orientated kind of thing which means you have to take a bit of a leap into a run where you will probably be ridiculed.
You probably will be ridiculed at some point and you’ve got to be strong enough in what what you found by going outside of the hedge, and outside the human world, to come back into that world strong enough to stand in front of that person who might ridicule you and say, “No I’m sorry I can’t argue that on your terms like this is a thing that exists outside of your terms”
I have a bunch of problems with this term (UPG) one of them is that whilst it can get more intense, I think it is useful to kind of consider the imaginal and at the spirit world to essentially be identical for the purposes of epistemological examination.
So it’s about elevating the idea of the imaginal back to where it has historically been, which is a whole big idea.
But when you say ‘scornfully, its also used self-scornfully. It comes back to the shame thing – like you’ll tell people this is a bit UPG, this is just some UPG…
Well that was an eruption from the imaginal into your experience, and I don’t mean your head, I mean into your full embodied experience, and you just called it that! Is there a better term?
It can be a bit self deprecating, but what are you really deprecating?
You’re actually making out that something which passed to you from the spirit realm is lesser somehow, than something else that might have been written down for longer – that’s a bit insulting. I don’t know if I was the spirit, whether I would come back and say anything else after that.
I just call it inspiration – I don’t have any other term for it than that.
Its again about elevating the status of the imagination, and the status of the imaginal, and the status of inspiration in your interpersonal discourses – and that’s with either other human practitioners or just in life in general.
If you’re in the woods and you have, you know ‘The artist formerly known as UPG’,
PAY FUCKING ATTENTION!
You’re in the woods!
How else is it going to interact with you?
There are always chemical ways etc but that (UPG) is the spirit to spirit interaction!
If you just go “well that’s a bit weird, best get back to the car now”, what are you doing?
(As an aside, this brings to mind a recent blog post about Authenticity and Racism in contemporary paganism)
I believe things build up, a certain kind of … faster access over time… if they’ve (traditions) been used quite a bit … we would call that ‘reddened, like it’s accumulated virtue in some way. It’s like a worn pathway between this world and the next and I totally believe in that, and see it and work it, but a living tradition is something which hasn’t calcified and has to involve the potential for continuous interaction with the other world.
You can’t just shut a door at the 19th century and say “Oh well, this was traditional back then,and now nothing will ever come through again” otherwise why the hell are you even practising if you don’t actually wish to receive anything?Get a more satisfying hobby!