I have been riding the sometimes thorny network of hedges between skeptic and magickian, Atheist and Pagan since my earliest days as a scholar of occultism. It has never been particularly easy to do, requiring a lot of doublethink and paradigm shifting, but all in all it has been a worthwhile exercise. I have even managed to make a few friends within various factions of the otherwise guarded communities who staked out territory on either side of that spiritual divide, despite remaining honest about the dual viewpoints that have always drove my quest into the unknown. Yet I am finding it increasingly difficult to move between the two camps of late, watching instead in blind dismay as many of those around me become far more fundamentalist in tone.
This new attitude, as well as the pressure being placed on both groups by the religious fundamentalists who now run America with bullets and Bible in hand, has put up barriers that have since rendered my skipping across the hedgerows both difficult and ultimately unattractive. I find myself identifying less and less with all concerned, and putting palm to face in purest dismay as yet another headline hits or forum post goes viral to highlight the ever increasing stupidity of a vocal few who seem set on ruining it for the rest of us. Because while said miscreants were once isolated on the lunatic fringe they now seem to be heading steadily towards the centre, infecting their peers with a blatant disregard for common sense as they travel.
First things first, I am sick to my stomach of hearing about witches who hate the negativity that the title brings them. Be they Wiccans railing against the green face and pointy hat stereotyping that goes on around Halloween or the wider self initiated community throwing hand crafted hemp and hay toys out of their prams when the latest occult horror film graces the silver screen, I tire of hearing claims to legitimacy for their path. Sorry, but despite Gardener’s attempt at crafting believable pseudohistory from the ashes of Crowley’s sex magick legacy, modern witchcraft is not any more ancient or valid than anything else birthed by mock Masonic orders in the late Nineteenth and early Twentieth Centuries.
The bottom line here is simple enough. The term witch has had negative connotations in the Western world since the Inquisition and their non existent Burning Times rampage across Europe, if not before. And while there are many in the new age who plug their ears and stamp their feet in at attempt to avoid the truth the fact remains that the revered ancestors whose names fill up the records of the Catholic executioners were themselves Christian, and heretics to that paradigm as opposed to martyrs for ours. Even the famed cunning folk would have attended church on Sunday like the rest of the village, perhaps even aiding the priest in alleviating his gout after hours too. Theirs is not our history, despite some very impassioned claims to the contrary. Such folklore is just misinformation, nothing more.
You are the one who chose to identify with the word either pro-actively by becoming one or continuing a tradition handed down through the last few generations of your family instead. It is a choice made by many without any real understanding of what the word actually means. Such a moniker will always be perceived as at best cultish and at worse downright Satanic by the general population. The outsider is never free to just be themselves in any society that finds cohesion to be a prime concern, after all. In response to this negativity many self styled witches are just as stuck up, dogmatic and sour as their religious counterparts, casting us all in a bad light through one hissy fit after another. Christian Day, anyone?
Quite frankly, until they appear to be gearing up to drag you and your witchy little friends out of your houses and throw you on the pyres it is best to just get the fuck over it and move on. It does not help that these zealots are also the most vocal members of most occult groups too, ruling the social media roost by climbing to the top of the barn and crowing the loudest while actually having very little of substance to say. They refuse to face the fact that the masses will never be swayed. Unless actively looking for an impossible situation to rail against, you are far better off leaving them to their paranoia and concentrating on the real enemy at the gates: The increasingly militant neo-skeptics and their hold over the dissemination of information in the digital age.
More educated, more intelligent and more arrogant than anyone else on this list, the ultra Atheists seem to have missed the moment when the very scientific principles which they slavishly follow and defend to the hilt transcended simple cause and effect and become quasi-spiritual concepts in their own right. While the outside observer may view these tenets of a post clockwork universe as so obviously indistinguishable from magickal thinking, those with a more questioning attitude to the nature of our collective reality are left staring at the rabid gaggle of scientific killjoys and wondering why they doggedly refuse to get the joke. And oh boy, are they organised.
There are entire web projects revolving around editing and re-editing Wikipedia for example, all in a concerted effort to remove or at the very least refute all paranormal claims. Volunteers for such work are never hard to find either. Western universities seem to churn out scholarly members of various neo-skeptical groups on an almost daily basis, instilling these supposedly educated individuals with an existential terror of the fall of knowledge and rise of superstition as well as a need to crusade against this imagined apocalypse for the good of all humanity. Blinded by their higher learning and technologically switched on enough to throw a virtual spanner in the works of any website deemed to be infested with woo, they remain a threat to the free and open version of the internet that we all take for granted.
Magickians such as those who regularly visit The Vulpine Portfolio will no doubt survive, Wikipedia abandoned as a source of knowledge around the time that their policy became increasingly geared towards the mainstream narrative, but it remains an invaluable jumping on point for the neophyte who does not know of anywhere else to look. With plans afoot on the corporate level to hide more and more of the World Wide Web behind draconian censorwalls and pay for play services in the near future, any mainstream location that contains even a scrap of occult knowledge should be doggedly defended as sacred by us all.
That said, I pride myself on being at least partly skeptical by nature, as do many in the wider esoteric community who retain some sense of perspective in their day to day deliberations. I question, consider and debunk far more of the supposed paranormal and magickal events that cross my path than I choose to accept. I stand against the obviously fraudulent, or at best delusional, mediums that are plying their trade in the pubs and clubs of the nation even as you read this. While I am more than happy to see people exercise their personal choice to pay to sit in an audience in the hopes of receiving a message from uncle Bill outlining the whereabouts of his prize winning cock, I also rear back in disgust at the growing minority who will insert themselves into the private lives of their clients for personal gain.
These miscreants will even go as far as terrifying people who are convinced that they are living in a haunted house into parting with their money in exchange for a blessing or two, or as we have seen in America of late a quick fix for a family curse. All the while these scammers know deep down that they are little better than snake oil salesmen with the ethics of stray bitches in heat. Add to this the self styled gurus who start sex cults in suburban cul-de-sacs and the supposed Satanic high priests who dominate their followers with fear of spiritual destruction and there is much to be disillusioned about within the occult sphere. To state otherwise would be little better than wallpapering over the bloodstains, and downright dishonest to boot.
And then there are the ghost hunters, both amateur and professional – supposedly scientific in methodology but plainly shoddy in both reasoning and implementation from beginning to end. Their entire premise is one of assumptions: hunting at night assumes that ghosts are more visible in the dark for example, or their use of recorders to pick up EVP or ITC which ultimately relies on the dead being able to contact the living through mechanical devices. Despite the prevalence of Franks Boxes on pretty much every paranormal television show and YouTube channel in recent years, the science behind using such attractive little toys is as yet very much unproven.
Let us not forget also the whole pseudo-Christian seepage that has worked its insidious way into the core of their practice as well. Spiritualist techniques to open the proceedings and Catholic prayers to close, banishing in the name of Saint Michael and holy water to cleanse the atmosphere, every entity a devil or demon to be dealt with through the intervention of the one true God. It never ceases to make me stare in wide-eyed disbelief when I see a purportedly scientific group break out the Bible, begin tipping tables or worse, load up an MP3 Player to try and convince a ghost to get all confessional about why they are living in that particular old ladies’ sock drawer.
In general, nothing that the semiprofessional ghost hunters can produce will ever stand up to scientific scrutiny well enough to provide any sort of viable proof of life after death. As such we find the proponents of this peculiar hobby taking part in a closed world where only those who share that nocturnal interest will ever see the merit in what is placed before them as evidence. There is nothing wrong with this of course. If all those attending a lockdown wish to be is the paranormal equivalent of anorak clad train spotters then you be you. But if you think that you are going to change the wider world through such half baked nocturnal antics I can promise that is not going to happen any time soon.
Oh, and should your findings be debunked do not get all little miss pissy pants about it, and do not resort to personal attacks on those who took Occam’s Razor and mercilessly flayed all your hard work away to dust particles or pareidolia. And for the love of the gods, definitely do not turn it into a personal vendetta. You stand and fall by your reputation in that field more so than most of the others listed here, so garnering for yourself a reputation as a fanatical spook humper will only stand against you in the future if you do somehow buck the trend and find something conclusive enough to prove the existence of ghosts to the wider population. Part of being believed is being believable. A tough lesson for some, but one that bares remembering.
So there you have it, everyone. Either a warning shot or a full on broadside aimed directly at the crews of the ships around me, depending upon your point of view. As for the reasons behind this sudden outburst, they are born purely from frustration and foresight with regards to the direction those movements are heading. If these shadows remain unchanged then I see little reason to continue to consider myself allied with any of the groups involved in the cold war being quietly waged for the hearts and minds of the more supernaturally inclined members of our otherwise bland population. I care not for follower counts or media profiles. I have nothing to loose by stating uncomfortable truths. Your fragility is not my burden to bare.
There is an air of self preservation in the previous two thousand words. Gems of insight among the vitriol and masterfully crafted nihilism too. Wisdom in an age where there is less and less call for such commentary, delivered by a man who has no right to preach. My position has always been one of putting my own magickal goals above that of the communities that I inhabit, and this is exactly what I am finding myself called to do now. It could be competently argued that such a position makes me something of a hermit, and I am indeed increasingly seeing myself as a lone voice of unreason in an already insane world. But that is fine. All foxes are tricksters, and tricksters do their best work when walking alone.