The Author's Corner
Origins of Modern Witchcraft:
TWPT Talks to Ann Moura
TWPT: What were some of the earliest memories you have of the Craft being lived out around you?
AM: The earliest memory I have of the Craft being lived occurred when I was 3--I went to a dark lake in the deep woods with my mother and grandmother (who was visiting us from Brazil for a few months), and we stayed in a small cabin with a screened porch. My mother set me in a small rowboat at the edge of the lake and I pointed to a snake in the water beside the boat. My grandmother told me what it was and after a little while, she carried me to the cabin, where I pointed to a large owl sitting in the rafters of the screened porch, and she told me what that was. This crystal clear memory has stayed with me for 50 years, and I see it as a magical experience, for we were Maiden, Mother, and Crone watched over in the wilderness by the snake and the owl.
Throughout my childhood, the Craft was quietly incorporated, so that I have fond memories of my mother nurturing little fledglings fallen from their nests, reciting the Rules of Conduct to me, doing spells for me, biting on 12 pomegranate seeds on New Year's Eve and wrapping each one in a turn of a piece of paper to be put in a wallet or purse, collecting plant leaves to tape on white cardboard sheets to be identified, going outside on the nights of the Full Moon to admire her beauty and be told what kind of Moon this was and what it meant, leaving milk for the fairies, learning how to interpret dreams, communicating with spirits, and many other things of this sort.
We lived in a number of different houses, never in the country, but always with a garden of some kind in our yard. The earliest one I remember was a large vegetable garden I helped tend when I was 4 and 5 years old. There was a smaller flower garden closer to the house. My mother cooked and preserved a pantry full of vegetables, fresh apple sauce, and jams from our garden and trees, and I would watch in fascination. For May Day (Beltane) I would make small baskets from colored strips of construction paper, put garden flowers in these, and hang them from the doorknobs of the houses in the neighborhood early in the morning and ring the doorbell while hiding out of sight.
TWPT: Do you consider yourself a hereditary Witch and exactly what does that mean to those who are not familiar with the term?
AM: Yes, I do consider myself a hereditary Witch. I see this term as meaning that the customs, myths, practices, and even deities are passed along in a family through the generations. Bendidia (also known as Bendis) is my mother's Craft Goddess--the Thracian Moon Goddess, revealer of secrets, a "Goddess of Witches"--and how she came into her family of Celtic-Iberian descent is quite unknown to me. The foundation for my Craft came to me through my mother, and she would explain things to me as being how her mother had taught her, and so it is my impression that every family tradition will most likely differ from one another to some extent.
My mother made a point of "blending in" as she said did her mother--but neither were churchgoers. She used to tell me that we do not name ourselves, but that others will know who we are. In Brazil, it was always a quiet matter in that no one ever spoke the word "witch" out loud, but knew who to see for healings and solutions to problems. These benefits were "secured" with a "payment" of goods and/or services--which is a practice based in the idea that you have to give a gift to receive a gift, to bind the energy exchange. My grandmother used to get chickens, beans, or farina from the people she helped.
TWPT: Was there a point at which you decided that this is "your" path and not just your families' path? Or was it just a natural assumption that you would follow in your mothers and grandmothers footsteps?
AM: The idea of following a "path" never occurred to me until I was 15 (which is the point from which I date my practice as starting over 38 years ago), and the main difference at this time was that I chose not to use Christian associations in my Craft as did my mother and grandmother (who seemed to approve of the direction I was taking when she lived with us for a year when I was 17). I believe that by adopting Christian associations early on (especially obvious with Catholicism), the Craft was able to survive in many families--the Lord became Jesus, the Lady became Mary, the Lord of the Wildwood became St. Francis, and so on. There are numerous saints (such as Brigid in England and Denis in Paris) and aspects of Mary (Queen of the Sea, of the Universe, of Heaven, and so on) that are straight out of Paganism, so it was probably easier to keep the images and change the names to continue the old practices undisturbed.
Somehow, the idea of Jesus and Mary never conflicted in my mind with Bendidia--it was all some kind of happy melange in my childhood. So when I decided to drop the Christian associations, I was essentially taking the foundation of my family heritage and embarking on my own version.
Over the years I have added to and rearranged my practice according to what works and what I am drawn to, and I feel that this flexibility is what keeps the Craft vibrant and alive. My children (now grown) have taken the same core elements, altered, elaborated, and personalized, to create their own practices.
TWPT: Do family traditions include a ritual or ceremony to officially dedicate oneself to the path that they have chosen?
AM: The question about a Dedication Ritual depends on the meaning of the term, and I can only speak for my particular family rather than for a blanket "family tradition" which I feel will vary with each family. When I was 11 years old, I visited my grandmother in Brazil. She took me around her garden talking about the plants, but my Portuguese had really deteriorated by then and I understood very little. At the end of the tour, she told me to take a shower, which I did. But after I was all clean and rinsed off, she came up behind me and threw a deep pan full of fragrant cold spring water over me, so I may have been "initiated" without fully understanding. Although this was an age of extreme self-consciousness, I was aware that I was not disturbed by this surprise intrusion. I do know that when I asked my mother about this in front of an uncle and aunt, she changed the subject and it never came up again.
When I put aside the Christian associations, I did my own Initiation as an introduction to the Lady and the Lord, giving my Craft Name as based upon family teachings. The idea is that of cleansing, clearing away the old and opening the way for the new, to enhance one's learning. The ingredients come from family heritage, but the arrangement is individual.
A ritual of Dedication, however, entails a full opening of the lines of communication--one that does not close--and you have to be ready for this step. Again, the components are family, but the manner of putting it together is individual and personal.
TWPT: Did your beliefs pose any problem in the ways that you related to friends as you were growing up?
AM: There were not problems in relating to friends as I was growing up, so much as little differences--such as being the only kid on the block who did not go to Sunday School. I think that individuals see themselves as "normal" as they grow up until something startles them into realizing they are not quite on the same track as their friends--and this awareness really doesn't appear until the latter part of grade school and early high school years. This seems to be the point where kids start making comparisons with one another over religion and philosophy, and begin to group themselves accordingly. I was the only student in 7th grade who had read all of Bulfinch's Mythology and was drawing illustrations of the "Sea Goddess" and watercolors of Poseidon, so my circle of friends was rather narrow.
I was always immensely proud of my parents--knowledgeable and wise, fun, but also strict. While I speak mostly of my mother for her Craft information and practices passed on to me, my father was also an important influence in those years. He was a naturalist who grew up in Wyoming, Colorado, and Oregon, with a vast range of experiences and interests--he could tie all kinds of knots from sheep shank to monkey fist and do cowboy rope tricks, he was musical, he wrote wittily and composed poetry, and he was well read, able to talk about most any subject: stars, plants, geology, birds, animals, Native American traditions, and so forth. I grew up in an atmosphere of learning from Nature and my surroundings, traveling all around the country on vacations seeing natural wonders and learning about different cultures. Family was the main, tightly knit unit of my life into which only a few outsiders were permitted access.
TWPT: Your bio says that you have practiced solitary for the last 35 years, what was the first contact that you could remember with Witches other than your family (no names needed)? Was it what you expected of others who also chose to identify themselves with the name of Witch?
AM: My first contact with a couple of other Witches came about midway through college, and these were people who approached me for pointers on their path at a time when I really was not ready to be a teacher. Only much later did I find people who were Witches of various Traditions, out of the broom closet and communicative, and like all people I met over the years, some remain close and others drifted away, usually depending upon the amount of similar interests. I think the one Witch I felt the closest to was the woman who encouraged me to write about my Craft, but passed on before the book came out in print. I dedicated Green Witchcraft to her.
TWPT: Was being a solidtary something you preferred or was it a necessity?
AM: Being Solitary is for me both a preference and a necessity. I do not like to draw attention to myself, and working alone or with family is more comfortable. While I have attended coven gatherings and eclectic circles, I prefer to use ritual as communication between the individual and the Divine, and to me that is a personal experience.
TWPT: When was it that writing first surfaced in your life and how did it manifest itself?
AM: I started writing at an early age, incorporating some aspects of family heritage into my short stories and poems. My first published book was my Master's thesis, followed some years later by an article and poem in a Pagan newsletter. Then I wrote a letter to the editor at Llewellyn in response to an article in their newsletter (since updated into a magazine format). I talked about the problem of real-time history and mythological-history, and this got the attention of the Acquisitions Editor. We corresponded a bit, and she suggested that I take what I wrote in the letter and expand it into a book, which I did, and this was published as "Dancing Shadows."
I only started writing about the Craft after my mother died. That event made me realize that I needed to pass along the things I had learned. As with my own childhood, where the Craft was used as needed, I had been doing the same with my family, so that there were things which my children had not seen or experienced and which could be lost. As I started the project, I talked with my friend who convinced me that rather than just writing things down for my children, I should share this information with anyone who was interested--and that was when I began the series on Green Witchcraft.
TWPT: I'm not that familiar with your book Dancing Shadows, could you fill us in on what it covered and how it was received by the public.
AM: I have to admire the courage of Llewellyn for taking a chance in publishing Dancing Shadows since it was mainly a history book (although with a Pagan perspective) tracing the development of modern religions from an Indus Valley source dating back to 30,000 BCE. It was ground breaking in that I pulled together archaeology, anthropology, and history to present information in a non-mainstream religious context. To me, it is only reasonable that an accurate historical picture requires a unified perspective from all these fields, but the academic view tends to keep these areas of study separate. There was only one printing of this book, and it was received with either enthusiasm or skepticism, depending on the reader. I was pleased, however, that the History Journal reviewed it and pronounced my research as sound, although the reviewer was quite displeased with my unorthodox correlations. A few years later, the public newspapers were carrying photos and information about the "astonishing" finds of 400,000 year old spears and other artifacts showing skilled handiwork in Europe, so that I was essentially vindicated by the mass media, and anyone who read my book could have said, "I already knew that." The discoveries were actually complimentary to those of other sites and not unexpected for anyone who kept up with archaeological writings, but it was news for the general public.
TWPT: After this initial writing experience with Dancing Shadows, what were your feelings about tackling the next project? Did you look forward to the next book?
AM: My second project with Llewellyn Publications was Green Witchcraft: Folk Magic, Fairy Lore, & Herb Craft, and while I did not write this in relation to the first book, in a sense Dancing Shadows afforded a foundation for the second and I incorporated some of that information where pertinent. The second book was based on my family Craft heritage which I wanted to offer as information for Seekers, and was originally simply titled, Green Witchcraft. The people who work on bringing a selected book into print will often change a "working title," and all of mine have been renamed or subtitled between manuscript submission and printed book release. Again, as I mentioned earlier, what really motivated me into writing was the death of my mother, and the book began as a project intended to get onto paper as much as I could about the family heritage and my development of the practice. I was very undecided over whether to try to get it published, and it was only with the encouragement of friends that I went ahead and prepared it for Llewellyn to look at.
TWPT: What kinds of feelings did you have about starting to work on Green Witchcraft vol. one? Was the writing difficult or was it a natural outpouring of all that you had learned while you grew up?
AM: When I wrote Green Witchcraft, that was the only book I was focused on at the time. The writing itself went fairly smoothly and quickly because I was basically drafting from personal experience--my only limitation was that of making the time to sit and write. I began by listing things I wanted to talk about, then organizing and writing from there. Of course, changes were made along the way to make it more readable and clearer. I have a somewhat wry sense of humor, and unless you hear my tone of voice, you might think I was terribly serious about something that I actually found amusing. That's the sort of thing a good reader and editor help the author to clarify before a work goes into publication. I found everyone to be very helpful, and some of the material was rearranged for easier use by those who are new to the Craft.
TWPT: Seems there are always discussions about whether or not secrets of the Craft should be revealed in printed form to just anyone with the price of the book, how do you feel about the information that you make available in books like Green Witchcraft?
AM: So many people are searching for teachers, there simply are not enough to go around, and books help with this while also addressing the needs of people living in isolated areas. My objective in writhing is to make available information that may provide someone with a sense of direction, being adopted as that person's path or used as a starting point for finding their own path. How my family does things is by no means the end-all to Witchcraft, but it is an option with some different perspectives--my view is that you can use what you feel works for you and blessed be. The only things I consider secret to the Craft are the names given to you by the Goddess and the God, and the names they give you to address them. But as for contacting and working with the energies of Nature, I feel this will help people better recognize their connection to the Earth and to one another. Secrets are more in the realm of singular practices, especially in rituals, that distinguish one Wiccan Tradition from another--rather like the "secret" handshake of the Masons--or the names and addresses of fellow practitioners, and the names of the Divine used by a group. I hope that I have been able to bring some useful insights to people for their personal practices, and while my books are mainly written with the Solitary Practitioner in mind, the material can be easily adapted by covens as desired.
TWPT: What kind of reception did Green Witchcraft get when it became available?
AM: I was quite astonished and very pleased with the positive reception of Green Witchcraft. I feel that the editor, Becky Zins, did a wonderful job putting it together, the cover was perfect, and the interior art work went beautifully with the subject. In fact, everyone who worked on the book also read it and all were enthusiastic about it, so the process was a labor of love from start to finish, and I feel that this is evident. In many ways, this book set the standard for the others in design and format.
TWPT: Did your perceptions of who the modern Witch was change when you started to contact more and more of them due to your being a public figure?
AM: What I found by coming into contact with more Witches was that there are a lot of people who are drawn to the Craft and are eagerly pulling together information from everything they can get their hands on--creating a positive spirituality for themselves based on many sources. The idea of an eclectic Witchcraft indicates to me that the energy is really pumping--people are experimenting, keeping what works and discarding what does not or reshaping material until it does work.
The growth of Wicca has been phenomenal in this country and abroad, and I don't think this could have happened without a variety of choices for people.
I began reading more Craft centered publications and over the years have seen the foundation growing stronger for the independent, self assertive Witch. Meeting people and getting letters (which I try to answer, although I am sometimes months behind!) has shown me that there are many ways for the Divine to contact people and work with them, and I am in full agreement that there is no one "true" path to the Divine. However, I am especially honored and joyful every time someone writes or tells me that my books have helped them to make that contact or to accept that what they have been doing is right for them--this is what gives me the greatest satisfaction.
TWPT: Tell me about the next two releases in the Green Witchcraft series. What was it that prompted you to do two sequels as opposed to moving onto another subject?
AM: The sequels to the first volume evolved from my Craft classes and conversations in which I discovered that people had questions not addressed in the first book. I wrote the second book mainly to discuss balance and how to work with the Dark Aspects of the Divine--the Dark Powers--and also to address such matters as the Ogham in divination and the role of familiars. The third book was based on my classes that I occasionally teach in a local store, and was written with the intent of giving a wider dissemination to these classes. Since I often hear from people asking for instruction, I felt that by writing it down, other people can take the books and turn them into their own course of instruction without having to go through all the trouble of creating lessons. The ones in "The Manual" can be adapted to individual needs and even presented in a classroom format.
After my brother passed away suddenly a year ago, and he was my only sibling being just 2 years my senior, I have felt a need to write down as much information as I can about my family practice of Witchcraft and how the Power is used in magic. To that end, I have submitted a fourth manuscript on the subject, which is under review at this time, dealing with the components of magic--which differs in some degree from what is commonly taught. I describe the things I learned, the terms and the memorization statements for these terms, as well as addressing some of the questions and requests for more details I have received from readers about how to move energy.
TWPT: Do you feel that as an author the writing of a book changes you in some ways? Please explain.
AM: Writing a book does bring some changes, certainly. Once something is put into print, it becomes a one-way conversation, and I prefer the approach of discussion over lecture every time. If the wording is not just right, people may misunderstand or misinterpret what is being said, and there is not much opportunity for correction. Personally, however, I remain a Seeker, and believe that this is a vital aspect of living.
Also, there are those who now expect me to have "all the answers." Well, I don't, but I will happily assist anyone, as best I can, to find their own solutions and their own spiritual path.
TWPT: Do you find that there is a community growing among the Witches and Pagans of the world and if so what does this mean to the future of Witchcraft? Will there come a time when there are support mechanisms similar to many other religions in place within the Witchcraft movement and what might be the consequences of following such a path?
AM: I do feel that there is a "sense" of community growing among Pagans and Witches, but I would not say that this reflects a dominance of any one type--we are a varied lot after all. The need for support mechanisms is already painfully obvious, but it will take a lot of coordination among a number of disparate groups to achieve the same kind of structures as is found in mainstream religions. I would love to see Pagan Temples erected to the Lady and the Lord--"The Temple of Our Lady and Our Lord of Wicca"--and the different aspects of the Craft, such as the Elementals (a shrine to Elemental Fire close to a volcano, one to Water at the coast or by springs, etc.--the possibilities are uncounted). I would like to see temples available to individuals, covens, and groups around the country--inner courtyards with colonnades for rituals held under the Sun or under the Stars, indoor shrines surrounding the courtyards for various deity aspects, cavern-style underground chambers for initiations, certain Rites of Passage, and dark season Sabbats, large meditation chambers sectioned to represent the Elementals with a Labyrinth to walk at the center, and rooms for classes and magical practices--but all of this means coordination, and so there would have to some kind of guild (committee) structure for this drawing participants from throughout the local Pagan/Wiccan community. It is through such physical and "bureaucratic" structures that you would know the Old Religion is back and forming an integral part of society. The only problem a support structure would have lies in accountability--the bills have to be paid, and people would have to be willing to keep it going.
Egos would have to be kept under control so that everyone would be able to benefit from the temple, and from there, outreach programs would be better organized.
Even in the early centuries of Christianity in Rome, one of the problems of Paganism was that the great temples had become exclusive to the priesthood--ordinary people could not approach their deities. This paved the way for the same thing in Roman Catholicism. Other areas of easy popular access (shrines and oracles) were then outlawed and closed by legal mandate (often with a church built over the "cleansed" and rededicated sites). There would have to be some mechanism in place to keep this from happening again in a cultural revival of Paganism. The Inner and Outer Courts of some Wiccan Traditions reflect this old standard of exclusion, but it tends to be temporary as the courts can be bridged through education and elevation within the Tradition. However, the idea of "Trad secrets" continues this situation on a broader scale.
Truth be known, there are no "secrets" in Christianity today, hence, it is readily accessible to the masses. By holding on to the notion of "secrets" the Craft maintains an aura of mystery and a shroud of exclusion that keeps it from the mainstream. Whether that is beneficial or not depends on who you talk to. The Wheel of the Year, for example, is called one of the "Mysteries" by many--but to me it is not mystery, it is solar and agricultural. The relevant deity myths associated with the Wheel will change according to the Trad, but the "generic" mythic pattern relates to phases of the Sun and the stages of cultivation and harvest.
Today, many communities in America have active Pagan/Wiccan organizations already--many surviving on a shoestring budget--but participating in neighborhood cleanups and charity work, sponsoring workshops and Sabbats, and even offering retreats--so perhaps it is only a matter of time for these things to spread and become more evident. That there is an impact being felt by mainstream religions is already apparent with renown televangelists targeting the amazing growth of Paganism as a modern evil in their daily programs.
TWPT: How has the internet changed the way that you connect to the Witchcraft community at large compared to even 15 years ago? Has it made it easier for the solitary to connect and feel a part of the larger group beyond their limited exposure in their own locale?
AM: The Internet has allowed for some impressive changes. Information is brimming to overflowing on the net, but as with all things, you have to be selective and know where to look to get the best information. The links are a big help, and search engines can get a person directed to a number of sites on Wicca (Wicca, Witchcraft, White Witchcraft, Alternative Religions, Books of Shadows, Traditions), or various aspects of the Craft (Pagan, Pagan Deities, Divination, Tarot, Astrology). The Solitary Practitioner can glean a lot of information from the sites and learn also about what is happening in the Pagan community, such as where are the festivals, where are the open Sabbats, and where are the classes being taught and by whom. The content of sites vary and the Seeker must make the discernment between what feels appropriate and what does not.
Pagan networking and chat rooms all have to be approached with the same cautions as those of any other Internet contact, but gatherings and festivals are excellent for meeting people. There are a number of recognized sites (Circle in Wisconsin) and regular festivals (FPG--Florida Pagan Gathering) that afford a comfortable atmosphere for learning and expanding experience.
TWPT: Your new book is entitled Origins of Modern Witchcraft, what was it that prompted you to write the history of Witchcraft?
AM: I suppose the main impetus for writing a history came from knowing that certain information was not widespread. The quest for a spiritual foundation is inherent in people, I believe, and the more research I did, the more I uncovered, and the more I wondered why this was not being presented in our education systems. The problem, as I identify it, is that in the United States, we have a highly filtered history and cultural lineage, while in Europe, things are much more accessible--you literally have to travel to learn, and not everyone has that opportunity. The ocean that has for the past two centuries kept this country isolated from both the European past and its present is only now being bridged by the wonders of the Internet. The true power of instant communication is hitting a lot of people very hard and the level of excitement as the possibilities dawn is rising. I am afraid that our electronic support systems will be unable to keep up with demand, so I look forward to this system being reviewed and nurtured. This country has been kept culturally malnourished by the same sort of people who recently outlawed aspects of science education in Kansas because things like the reality of evolution--seen in daily life with evolving viruses and animal/plant adaptations--will destroy their religiously dictated world view. The same applies to history--knowledge is power, and it is liberating. I am particularly pleased that information is spreading--a symptom of this can be seen in that only ten years ago saying that the Celts can be traced back to the Indus (as I did originally in Dancing Shadows) was daring and generated some negative responses, but I didn't invent the information of Celtic migrations. Today it is becoming common knowledge! Even CNN is making the association between the Celts and the Galicians of modern Northwest Spain (the Iberian Peninsula being the source of Iberian-Celts who then migrated in part to Ireland) and the Indus roots. How Witchcraft figures into this is through the revival of the old practices of Western Pagan heritage--many of which are still alive and well in India, some with the same names, such as the tuatha de danu and the Morrigan.
TWPT: How is it that you blend historical research and archaeology to form a picture of Witchcraft over the centuries?
AM: Tracking backwards from the present as far as possible into the past provides a starting point. From there, moving forward shows the many forks in the road of religion until arriving at the present. That leaves the future open for changes and for new ideas to take hold. Archaeology has often taken a back seat in the writing of history, and there is a sense of rivalry between the two disciplines, but I think all knowledge should be combined for the whole picture to be seen--even geology and folklore should be examined. The point of view of the time period examined is also very important, rather than simply the contemporary point of view looking backward. We can use our accumulated knowledge to interpret what we are seeing, but we also need to accept that the people contemporary to those events operated from their particular perspective.
As an example of what I mean by this idea of perspective, look at the question of how many Witches were killed in the Burning Times. Reality? Who knows--maybe none were actual Witches. Perception of the modern person however will depend on the time frame explored, such as the highest killings during the Renaissance and Reformation (significant in that these are periods that directly challenged the established Catholic Church), providing counts in the hundreds of thousands. But Pagans, and converts who held onto certain Pagan practices or interpretations, have been slain since the earliest days of the establishment of Christianity as the Catholic religion in the Roman Empire. From their point of view, the Burning Times started early and had major flare-ups along the way.
The title of heretic, heathen or Witch made no difference because the people doing the killing saw all as consorting with their Devil. So, the threat of torture, hanging, impaling, and burning was certainly high in the fifteenth through seventeenth centuries (1400's - 1600's), but Peter Abelard was silenced in the 12th Century Renaissance by threat of condemnation as a heretic because he began to question the very words of the Bible and related this practice to Classical (Pagan) education techniques. Because of him, the Church took over control of education and established Scholasticism, meaning that all education had to complement and endorse the Catholic Church and its interpretation of Christianity. So how many died over noncompliance with orthodox Christianity? Millions. It is all a matter of point of view. A Witch, according to those doing the killing, is a heretic, a Pagan, a healer, a philosopher, an independent thinker, and a scientist (remember that Galileo barely escaped with his life, spending the remainder under house arrest). All these people were integral players in a Christian society evolving from the Pagan one that viewed humanity as a viable part of the living Earth and the universe.
Witches are the people who have retained this awareness, who practice the Old Religion, and who explore their world with a sense of belonging, and those who survived did so by blending in.
TWPT: Does this synthesis of disciplines ever come under fire by those who dispute the conclusions that you draw from your research?
AM: Many historians are suspicious of archaeologists because for some time the main function of history has been to preserve a world view--but this might not be supported by the dug up evidence. Even more controversial than the combination of disciplines is that we should dare to allow credit for the ingenuity and valid spirituality of our ancestors worldwide. In other words, much of Western history has been written with a distinct point of view so that what is generally accepted is:
a.) Europe suffered from a period of ignorance called the Dark Ages,
b.) Christianity preserved European civilization during the Dark Ages,
c.) Western European Christianity is superior to any other version (Greek
or Russian Orthodox, Egyptian Coptic, missionary inspired conversions in Hawaii, Africa, South America, and Asia, etc.)
d.) Western European Christianity is superior to any other religion (which are called cults),
e.) Western cultural heritage is unique and superior to all others, and
f.) Western history demonstrates progressive improvement over anything predating Christianity in Europe and the world (i.e.; there is only linear progress).
Thus, no matter what archaeology shows, the facts must be bent, shaped, adjusted, or ignored to preserve the integrity of this alleged history of progress. In the early days of nineteenth century archaeology there were people who drew erroneous conclusions while trying to establish that the ancients were not as dimwitted as the historians of this period contended--but these few instances have been passed and now the field is open to more careful scrutiny. Thus, as an example, the fancy coffins (sarcophaguses) that what were labeled in the nineteenth century as bathtubs are now viewed correctly--Roman cemeteries are full of them.
The evidence was there, it just needed to be put together with other sites rather than being seen as an isolated artifact. But the fact that the ancients did indeed have baths is now understated (alas), although archaeology has correctly shown that the heating and cooling systems for public baths was ingenious, and that some ancient cultures really did have indoor plumbing (such as at Mohenjo-daro). This investigative and factual assessment of artifacts (on the whole) helps debunk some of the obvious errors. A prime example of attempting to hang onto error can be seen in the field of "Bible Archaeology" in which (as an example) the real-time site of Jericho is being constantly explored in an attempt to paste it onto the Joshua Bible story although the evidence shows that the city was abandoned long before the time period Bible scholars attribute to the story. Another example is the attempt to place the story of the parting of the Red Sea and the Exodus with Moses in relation to anything from celestial events (close miss by a meteor) to geological events (volcanic eruption), as possible real events interpreted as religious.
There is no real evidence of this, but the possible explanations for a "miracle" of this sort are explored without regard to the fact that the desert, which preserves the very tracks and campsites of nomads who passed by thousands of years ago, fails to show any evidence of a massive migration of people. In other words, since the Exodus never happened, why try to paste in meteors and eruptions to explain it? These attempts at "proving" the "truth" of the Bible through archaeology keep collapsing, and indeed, have often served to prove just the opposite of what was desired through exposing the varied sources for these stories adopted from other cultures. John Romer initiated some wonderful televised probes into this situation, and now there are others who have begun following in his footsteps.
Archaeology has drawn people to the field seeking to prove the myths and perspectives of the accepted history as true, but this can only be done by ignoring the vast wealth of information to the contrary. Fortunately, the information is getting out, and when color photos are shown of the intricate artwork of ancient cultures, there can be no more doubt of their viability and love of life. The monasteries and churches of Europe are packed with these things! The art is incredible, and I can only be grateful that there were monks and priests who saw the value of these cultural treasures and withheld at least a few selected pieces from the melting fires. Unfortunately, a vast amount of cultural heritage--both European and Native American--was melted down to be reformed into chalices, reliquaries, and other such Catholic Church accoutrements.
But there are other threads that need to be brought together for a full picture, and that includes art history. Up until only a few years ago, many examples of ancient art were ignored or kept from the general public, so that people only got to see the "standard" pieces which could be fitted into a "standard" history. Today, there is more available, but in many cases you still have to travel to the site of origin or a European museum to see these things. For example, if people had color photos of the unbelievably beautiful gold artwork of the Celts and Goths, no one would accept these people being called "barbarians"--they had a highly artistic and sophisticated culture. The art (not the commissioned religious paintings) of the so-called "Dark Ages" shows that the people of these centuries were very competent, lively, and skilled. Go back into the paleolithic art works, and the wall paintings in caves show more than hunting and animal scenes--they show sexuality and a linking between a woman's procreative ability and the community deity. From the earliest times, then, women have been giving birth to the "Son of God". But how many people have seen these paintings or understood them in this context?
More than one painting depicts a receptive woman and an ithyphallic man dressed head to foot in the skin of an animal (lion, bear, etc. depending on the site, and the translation through time should be obvious--Sekhmet, Artemis). You will have a hard time finding this pictured in a book at the local bookstore due to the sexual content, but it is published in Germany.
The same problem applies to Western depictions of Athena, as another example, wherein all the snakes draping statues of her in Italy are missing in art renderings illustrating books in America. Instead, we are told that she carries on her shield or breastplate the head of the slain Medusa. Well, there are snakes everywhere on these huge statues--shoulders, arms, feet, etc., but this is not perceived as acceptable since historians lay Greece and Rome as the foundations of Western civilization. And besides, those snakes lead out of Greece and into Mesopotamia, and from there into the Indus Valley, straight to Shiva who was wearing them in 28,000 BCE. I love this stuff!!
TWPT: Even though this book (Origins of Modern Witchcraft) has only been available since October of last year, how has it been received so far?
AM: I have been absolutely delighted with the response to Origins of Modern Witchcraft--it seems the time was right for this information to come out. I was even more gratified to learn that this book has been picked up to be on national acquisitions listings for public libraries.
If nothing else, the bibliography will direct people into some fascinating fields of learning.
TWPT: Any plans for your next book and when is it that we might expect to see it?
AM: Currently I have just completed a manuscript about the magical techniques and understandings of how my Craft functions--a kind of 'nuts and bolts' of magical practice. Because it involves various components of magic, I have gleaned some material from the previous three books on my family tradition of Green Witchcraft, but this manuscript does not contain the spells, Sabbats, Esbats, divination, meditations, and so forth of those books. There may still need to be some work done on it, but the focus is to consolidate pertinent information from the other three and apply this to the explanation of the mechanics of energy manipulation--magic. Beyond that, I am considering creating a tarot deck that is in tune with the Green Craft, but I have not launched into that project yet.
TWPT: Any final thoughts for our readers as we close out this interview?
AM: I suggest that people read as much as they can and also try things out--don't be an "armchair" Witch--and if something doesn't feel right, don't be afraid to abandon it. Trusting your intuition is a key to practicing magic--it is the communication between the conscious and subconscious minds. I also recommend talking to plants and animals, the stars and the insects, rocks and crystals--they are all part of the shared life of this living planet--everything is in motion with molecules and has life of some kind. Meeting with others of like mind is easier today than it was even ten years ago, so do attend a Pagan Festival, find a class on the Craft, check the local New Age stores for events, and get involved--become a participant. Thank you, Imajicka, for your terrific questions, and for the opportunity to visit through this means with your readers. Brightest Blessings.
TWPT: Thank you so much for your wonderfully insightful answers. We wish you much success along your path and with all your future writing projects.