The first chapter of The Inner Temple of Witchcraft by Christopher Penczak starts the way many beginner witchcraft books start, with some history and terminology for the word witch. I am a lover of history but there is only so much that I can take of reading the same accounts over and over. I don’t condemn the author for doing this though because as an introductory of the first book in a series on witchcraft it is always wise to have a base understanding of what it is that we are talking about. There are important questions that must be answered in starting this journey.
-Why call yourself a witch?
-What does that mean to you?
-Do you call yourself a witch?
These questions put a baseline of what this terminology means to you and anyone you start a conversation with. So answering these questions is important for the rest of this discussion. The answers will vary from person to person and that’s expected and fine. If it didn’t vary from person to person I would be afraid that the individuals didn’t come to their convictions honestly. For those who have followed me for a while might know, I find something respectful about coming to one’s convictions honestly.
I draw concern on page 8 and have seen it in many publications that warlock means “deceiver” or “oath breaker”. Starting at the top of page 9 it states, “Such a title was probably associated with witchcraft by those who wanted to defame the practice.” While don’t believe this to be entirely false, I don’t think this is the entirety of the story. The term warlock while the meaning is correct, the question has to be asked who is the warlock deceiving and what oath are they breaking? This may have been that during the witch trials men were executed as warlocks. Linking this together we may have found our answer to these questions being simply the church. Since the church was on its rampage of purification, otherwise known as genocide, any type of witchcraft done by a man was seen as breaking an oath. Since women were viewed as weaker they were not seen as being able to keep an oath to the church anyway so the term wasn’t seen as fitting for women during that timeframe.
Moving on to page 10 I sort of disagree that witchcraft is a religion. I do agree that science and art are part of witchcraft. It could be argued that if you are making your witchcraft part of a religious practice then it is part religion, but this isn’t a necessity for witchcraft.
I can agree that witchcraft can be considered an art. If you consider art as an expression of self, as I do, then I would say that witchcraft could be considered in part a type of art. Looking further into Art we have chants, poetry, songs, etc that are commonly used during ritual. I can argue that even excluding such parts from ritual, having a minimized ritual is still a form of artwork.
On page 11, there can be a conflict with stating that witchcraft is part of the Old Religion. The reason I say this is that traditions such as modern day Wicca is still fairly new in its construct. This doesn’t mean that it does not get parts or is rooted in older practices. It’s that it is in fact more modern than other religions. I agree with the author that spirituality is a better term for witchcraft that that of religion.
Many of my gripes, as you will notice, can be seen as nit-picking. I do have issues with over arching generalizations or blanket statements of absolutes. I will attempt to keep my high levels of scrutiny for fear of loosing the forest through the trees.
One of the major parts I want to point out is that not all witches are polytheistic. I spent many years of my early practice not being polytheistic. I also want to point out that there are practitioners who are atheists. If you fall into these categories don’t feel that you’re not a witch because you’re not polytheistic. Just adapt these practices to fit your personal practice.
I want to focus on the bottom at page 11 where it speaks of energies. Masculine and feminine energies is something that I resonated with in my early practice as well as now. The author does a good job of describing the aspects of the God and Goddess as well as how the God and Goddess of Wicca can expand into pantheons.
I think it is important to bring in the talks of Carl Jung’s work in archetypes. I’m glad that he is included in here. The work of Jung is one that cannot be ignored when talking about Gods and Goddesses. Many soft polytheists work with archetypal energies and much of the philosophies of Tarot can be linked to Jung’s work. So I am glad that he makes an appearance in the very first chapter of this book.
Going back a couple paragraphs I also want to focus on the diamond analogy that he shows. This is something that I have touched on in one of my videos and He comes back to this example on page 13. I love the poetry of the writing where he describes the Judeo-Christian traditions. The way he does this is not in a demeaning way. He states “In our diamond analogy, they are looking at the brilliance of the whole diamond, but are blinded to look at the individual facets. Or they are fascinated by one facet of the diamond, one god, and exclude all else.” He states this in such a way that rather than being demeaning, as many can be by saying, “those misguided Christians,” or anything of the sort, I think he hits the nail on the head of what might really be the issue. I think it is important to also note that this can happen to anyone. There are even some Pagans who are so staunch that there is one way to do or view something that sometimes we get in our own way of experiencing a practice that could be more fulfilling for us because we get in our own way.
I have never really been one to be a healer, or should I phrase that I’ve never really thought of myself as a healer. I am more of a one on one counselor or advisor rather than a hands on healer. I have seen myself as the walker aspect though. I started my practice after a death in my family. Since then I have been very into the walker aspect. Communing with the dead and sitting in that space, whether it be helping them or just listening to whatever messages that they bring forth, I am there for it.
On page 15 the author states that such practices “are practicing the same craft regardless of name, place, or time.” This is what I have been saying for years that labels are for soup cans.
What are your thoughts on this first chapter? Do you have any insights that I have missed that you would like to add? Do you agree or disagree with my insights? Share your thoughts and get the discussion going.
Some parting questions from the author that I also pose to you are:
What is witchcraft to you?
What is a witch?
What does it mean to become a witch?