May 20, 2010

The Wiles of Witches -or- Why I'm Not in a Coven

In the world of modern witchcraft there are many paths to take. Some people believe witchcraft is something it's not, and many witches have their own interpretations that may differ from even each other. Many witches believe that to fully study the craft you must be apprenticed to someone, or have an elder - a teacher. I would be inclined to agree if such a thing were available to someone with no money.

See, after practicing the craft for around six years now I have noticed that there is no such thing as free information. Even if you are just hanging out with your friends and talking about the books you've read - the books cost money.

But I love books... The main problem I have is when witches sell classes, but don't offer any for free. I live in Salem, MA. You'd expect that there would be something like that, but no. I have checked out every coven and witch organization in town and there isn't a single one willing to teach a willing aspirant without some sort of monetary compensation.

At first I figured it ends up working out better in the long run because by getting all my information first-hand from books I would be getting a varied perspective from which to base my own opinions on. This, I believe, truly is the case, but the problem is that other witches will often not take me seriously if I don't belong to a particular coven or have a single main elder that guides me.

This, to me, is economic discrimination - a form of classism. To disrespect a knowledgeable person simply because they can not pay for a title?

Most witches notice this after a few years and learn to cope. Solitary and eclectic practitioners are often either not taken seriously, depicted as evil, or even mocked by other witches that belong to covens, but most of them get over it and learn to ignore those trying to disavow them. Some of the coolest witches I have known don't belong to covens, but they often lack the time and resources to help teach or guide others.

Those who don't learn to cope will often take another path. A path that, to them, may seem like the only one to take: follow the example of these other people, creating images, selling classes, selling a lifestyle - an image. I mean, if they can do it, why can't you?

... And this is why it seems every witch on the internet is trying to sell you something.

For instance, making candles or incense is very easy and can be learned from many books about beginner's witchcraft, so why are there so many people with online shops? The problem with this sort of thing is that there IS a market for it. The problem is sometimes what people want is not a spiritual path, but an image. So the online candle shop that does the best is the one with the best image - not the one with the most heart or the best product, the products are exactly the same.

Creating an image doesn't take heart. It doesn't take knowledge. You don't NEED to be a good person to create something sell-able if all that it needs is a pretty package.

This is true with many covens and witch organizations. They are an expensive pretty package full of the same information you can get anywhere. You are paying for a title that secures your spiritual image. Sometimes most of the members of the coven are customers and clients of the elders - not students! I have nothing against most of the covens in Salem, they are generally good people with good intentions, but I will never fully trust any of them until they start offering free classes.

The whole thing is just eerily reminiscent of the church in the middle ages, what with indulgences and tithing etc. I really think witchcraft is beyond that by now.


  1. The debate between "free" and "fee" products, programs, and services I suppose will never really be settled. My belief is that the culture of fees and payments found in many covens or Wicca / witch based groups is founded on the idea that a coven is supposed to not only be quasi-secretive but also deliberately exclusive. That is, there's no problem in attaching a price tag to everything that happens because it's just one more way to keep people out. I don't suppose there's anything really wrong with that - after all, history shows many examples of village wise men and women charging a fee for their services. But then, I think the problem is also rooted in that many Wiccans frown upon "conversion efforts" or the spoon feeding en masse found in Christianity. The idea is, "People have to think for themselves, so if they want it bad enough then they not only have to come to us, but they have to overcome whatever barriers we put in the way." Like you I found the exclusivity and "cool kids" atmosphere a little much to tolerate. Considering that most of these groups' traditions and practices are taken or re-created from sources hundreds of years old (and thus in the public domain), modesty could be a virtue.

  2. Hello (again? I'm not certain my post went through). I am a witch living in Salem with the same woes. I'm currently looking for community, and I wanted to inquire what--since this entry--have you done with the situation?

  3. A true witch will never request payment for his or her knowledge or gifts. A solitary is just that... alone and non profit, a gift of the mother earth.
    I am sad for your struggles. As the Buddah would say..."do not attach". Let this go..this feeling of not attach to and learn what you can in this incredible time of information explosion...go to the library, search on the internet for free. Start with the simple and most important things, such as all the healing plants native to your them to will grow too. Do no harm, blessed be.


Please be nice or shut up.