This lovely piece, written by Paul Huson back in 1974 for the Witches’ Almanac, does a powerful job of describing us witches and how we feel about magic.
Many thanks to the folks at the Witches’ Almanac for generously giving me permission to reprint it here. You folks rock!
The Old Ways…
What is it that calls to us from all ancient things: tangled woods; mossy lichened stones; secret gardens like Avalon; forgotten paths and long lost secrets? These things possess a power which flows from their very oldness.
I would say that such experiences are the call of the Old Ways, paths of myth, fable and legend, human dreams, your roots and mine. All ancient things partake of this mysterious ability to stir one’s soul.
Jung, the depth psychologist, attributed such feeling to the workings of the unconscious mind; anthropologists refer to them as Numen or Mana; poets call it inspiration.
Witches have a better name for what stirs us.
We call it magic.
Lay out a deck of Tarot cards and you will feel it breathing out from behind the pale hands and faces of the actors in the Tarot play, once gods and goddesses, now funny little puppets, quaint and heiratic, but still potent. Or open any book of mythology, tales of wonder and lost cults, of Morgana and Arthur, Math and Gwydion, the Tuatha De Danaan, Aradia. Even the contemporary myth- Tolkien’s Middle Earth- reverberates with the power of the Old Ways, and you will find magic there, for these are the bibles of our hidden gospel.
Yet behind the ceaseless interaction of the elements, rise and fall of stars, birth and death of the year, lie those sources that join our actions to theirs, the great common denominators, the eternal play of birth, love, death, and birth once more, enacted by the unseen Old Ones, lost gods today, but once simply primordial powers. To many of us they are just the Lord and Lady. Whether we care to call them Hu and Cerridwen, Bel and Ioevohe, Pan and Diana, Lucifer and Aradia, Watto and Andred, Cernunnos and Habondia, the archetypes are the same.
Whether our observances are traditional or discovered, handed down within a family or secret group, esoteric book, or even within the fabric of a dream. If they elicit a shiver of wonder and awe- then they are of the Old Ways. Deep will call to deep, power will come down. For at their most fundamental, before they were ever organized into any cult framework, the following could be said of these rites:
‘No special class of persons is set apart for their performance. The rites may be performed by anyone, as occasion demands. No special places are set apart for the performances. There are no temples. The rites are magical rather than propitiatory. The desired objects are attained not by propitiating the favor of the divine beings through sacrifice, prayer and praise but by ceremonies which are believed to influence the course of nature directly through a physical resemblance between the rite and the effect.’
These are not my words but Sir James Frazer’s. His Golden Bough along with Jacob Grimm’s Teutonic Mythology and The White Goddess by Robert Graves are our Testaments.
So if you seek knowledge of the Old Ones, turn to the sun and kiss your hand to the moon; be aware of the sky above your head and the earth beneath your feet, nature’s bounty, herbs and all living things.
Above all, observe the seasons and the tides. It isn’t in human institutions that the true secrets of vision and power are to be looked for, but only in the inwardness of your own being as reflected in nature.
Why go elsewhere when you have what you seek so close at hand?