I wrote this after reading some of the conversation over at The Used Key is Always Bright, and found myself quoted on the page! Quite an honour to see my words there alongside those of Sarah Lawless and Hyperion!
There has been SO much discussion lately about Paul Huson's book, "Mastering Witchcraft," that I had to jump in and post about it once more. Those who know me know it's one of my favourite books; in fact, if I had to pick two books and two books only which have really directed the shape of my practice, it would be "Mastering Witchcraft" and Doreen Valiente's "Witchcraft For Tomorrow." If you could kind of mash these two books together, it would be the kind of Witchcraft I practice, and the kind I always imagined when I was a little Witch and hadn't read a single occult book.
"Mastering Witchcraft" is a rare gem, a Witch's "how to" manual written way before the glut of fluffy, anything-goes McWicca books that flooded the market in the late '80s and early '90s. This is not a book about a lovely matriarchal Goddess religion, and it doesn't encourage you to make up whatever you feel like and call it Witchcraft. This book is good, functional, old-fashioned Witchcraft of the kind Witches ACTUALLY practiced, and as such contains curses, love spells, and other such staples which would be likely to make somebody weaned on modern "harm none, and never do magic without permission" reading material tear our their hair in fright. Such ideas, of course, that Witches never use curses and must ask permission from all involved before casting spells, is entirely a modern invention and actually makes little sense. Much of the Craft's power comes from secrecy, and if you go asking people if you can do spells on them, you've already blown that. "Mastering Witchcraft" is more realistic; it assumes you're willing and able to make judgments about when the use of magic is appropriate, and leaves the responsibility up to you and not to some glib, meaningless "harm none" rule. Not everyone in this world is "nice" and not every problem can be solved by "sending love" or "binding." Knowing powerful defensive magic WILL come in handy; I can speak from experience here.
Witchcraft is not supposed to be safe, harmless, or common. It's not supposed to be a Sunday religion, where you go to services and listen to sermons and have bake sales. Witchcraft is truly OCCULT; that is, "hidden" and should be practiced in relative secrecy and silence. Modern day attempts to turn Witchcraft and pseudo-Wicca into a kind of "Christianity II" complete with clergy and churches have, in my mind, been disastrous and have gone a long way in completely castrating the word "Witch." I feel heartened at the recent surge of interest in "Mastering Witchcraft" and in Traditional Witchcraft in general. I am hoping that this signals a turning away from the pop-culture stuff that so dominated the magical landscape for the past couple of decades, and back towards fewer, but better educated and more dedicated, practitioners who really know their stuff. If only we'd had a few more books like this, perhaps we could have avoided the whitewashing of the Witch and the ensuing results.