Us old-school Witches are disappearing.
There has been a lot of talk lately – at least in my own circles of friends, I suppose – that you can mix Christianity, and Witchcraft. Somehow, it has become cliché to be a “Christo-Witch.” And I’ve seen so many people assume that folk magic requires a Christian practice, or that it is, in itself, a Christian practice, and that one must be Christian to practice it. Folks assume that Appalachian Folk Magic, for one example, is Christian in origin, and in practice. They think that, because of the statements of a few “influencers” in today’s occult world, every folk magic tradition must’ve been “Christian,” that the practitioners were, “dual-faith.”
But there’s a very big difference in being dual-faith, and covering your ass.
Being dual-faith means you practice two religions. So, for example, if your mother was Baptist, and your father was Buddhist, you might practice both religions. You’d practice them alongside each other, but you wouldn’t necessarily blend them into one whole. They would become complementary practices to each other in your own inner world, but not necessarily in the external environment. You might meditate using a scripture as a mantra, for example, but you wouldn’t necessarily have a shrine to Buddha in your home, because you’re primarily Christian. That’s being dual-faith – practicing two different religions.
I can say for certainty that my great-grandmother – who taught me Appalachian folk magic, and left to me her secret book – did not call herself a Witch. And she might’ve even balked at the term, because theologically, you can’t be a Witch, and a Christian. You were either saved, or not saved. And if you were practicing witchcraft, you were most definitely not saved.
But her great-grandmother – my Ancestors that settled the mountains of eastern Kentucky – would not have considered themselves religious. And would’ve likely considered themselves wholly non-Christian, because their practices were wholly non-Christian.
My great grandmother’s secret book reveals some information that alludes to this fact. That information is: how one becomes a Witch.
There are a multitude of legends, and ideas in the mountains surrounding how one becomes a Witch. Primarily, the central idea is that one has to renounce the Christian God, and his devil, and return to the Ways Of Old, embracing the Ancient Devil. There are a few tales where you reject God, and embrace Satan (a different being from the Ancient Devil), but they came after Christianity took hold, and they were mostly plays on the original methods.
For example: one legend says that, in order to become a Witch, you have to shoot a rifle into the night sky, aiming at the full moon, on a Friday the 13th, at midnight. Don’t do anything else. Just that. And when you wake up to plow the fields later that morning, you’ll awaken as a Witch.
There’s a later play on that legend, and it says you have to shoot a rifle into the sky on a Friday the 13th, at midnight (regardless of moon phase), and “curse God.” In other words, tell him to fuck off. And once you’ve done that, you pray to Satan, and say something like, “I’ve renounced God, and his fake messiah, and I fully embrace Satan as the God of this world, and my Master.” That’s the “anti-Christian,” version, but the earlier version is not at all Christian, because it has nothing to do with rejecting any divine entities.
There are many others but, as always, the central idea is that you reject the current God of your kin. In other words: you rebel against religion. And like it or not, Witches have always been rebels, outcasts, on the fringes of society. And like it or not, Witches have always been riders on the cusp of what is or isn’t socially acceptable.
I think it’s pretty obvious from the legends and tales that Mountain Witches were not “dual-faith.”
More evidence is the fact that many family practices included leaving offerings outside on certain nights of the year, and in certain ways. We had one of these in my own family. I can’t say that anyone else in my family did it or knew about it, but I caught my great-grandmother doing it a few times.
Every year on April 30th, and on October 31st, my great-grandmother brought out a small, handmade figurine. It was a crude sculpture of a goat-head, and it was kept in a special box. These two nights of the year, it would be brought out, and placed on the retaining wall behind the house. A bowl of milk and honey would be placed in front of it. I noticed a couple of times that there were pieces of paper neatly folded, and placed under the statue. I can only assume that these were petitions – I never violated the ritual by reading the papers. The following day, the bowl of milk and honey would be poured out over the statue. And then the statue would be rinsed, dried, and placed back in it’s special box until the next time of offering.
Some might say that this would be evidence of being dual-faith, since my great-grandmother also attended church, and identified as Baptist. Except that, in order to do this, you had to renounce the Christian God. So says the secret book, anyhow.
If you’ve ever read Mastering Witchcraft, by Paul Huson, you know there’s a ritual included that consists of reciting the Lord’s Prayer backwards. Now, I don’t remember whether Huson says this specifically or not, but it’s really just a method of obliterating prior religious programming. It’s the same central principle in the legends of the mountains where rejecting the Christian God is paramount to becoming a Witch. And in all honesty, Huson’s use of the method isn’t original. Appalachian Mountain Witches were using the exact same method – reciting the Lord’s Prayer backwards – even before they came over from Europe to settle the New World.
In fact, one of my great uncles told me a story about his own grandfather. His grandfather Samuel, was born in 1886, and the story goes that, in 1901, at the age of 15, he went to the edge of the woods, on the outskirts of town. There, he lit a candle, and laid down a pattern on the ground using flour. He said the Lord’s Prayer backwards, and vowed he’d always be a Witch, if the Ancient Devil would give him a familiar. According to the tale, great-great-grandfather kept a covered bowl with specific items inside from then on, and fed it with milk and honey twice each month – on the new moon, and on the full.
I don’t know where the bowl came from. I don’t know if he was told by a spirit what items to put in the bowl. I don’t know if someone instructed him on how to do this. But the pattern he laid down using flour, and the basic gist of this working, is in my great-grandmother’s secret book. (No, I have not performed this rite. But I did perform Huson’s rite from Mastering Witchcraft when I was about 16.)
Whether my great grandmother was dual-faith, or just covering her ass, I can’t say. I never asked her. But I can say for sure that she appeared Baptist, except that her practices at home weren’t. To my knowledge, she didn’t even pray the way Baptists pray.
If we’re being honest with ourselves, there wasn’t much of a “dual-faith” practice in historical, folkloric Witchcraft – at least not as we know it in America. There couldn’t be. You weren’t given a choice of religion – you were born into Protestantism, at least in the mountains. So you had to put aside, and reject Christianity as a whole, including it’s God, in order to become a Witch. Protestants were theologically forbidden to practice magic of any kind, from a scriptural standpoint.
If you were from the mountains, you didn’t have the option of “dual-faith.” There’s no shortage of tales of Witches being burned at the stake, buried alive, or hung from the nearest tree in a graveyard. More likely than not, if anyone who practiced Witchcraft was sitting in church on Sunday, it was probably to cover their ass.
If you ask me why I won’t work with Saints and/or other Christian spirits, this is why. Because I’m not that person. Witches are rebels, outcasts, and on the fringe of society. We’re taboo. We’re rejected (until someone needs something from us).
Us old-schoolers are gradually disappearing. I’m not likely to ever have kids of my own, or even adopt, as much as I might want to. So, I need to pass on what I was given. And in that light, I started a new thing called Mountain Witchery Monthly, where a group of people decide what topics – within a Mountain Witchery context – we’re going to discuss, and learn on a monthly basis. Whatever majority rule in the group turns out to be, I write a PDF, and make a video (including demonstration, if there is one), and post it in a Facebook group. If you want in on that, you can watch this video, and then decide whether or not to join.