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Tradition or Witchcraft?

I use a lot of traditional hearth magic in my stories. It's often recognised as witchcraft, but to an outsider who doesn't understand or who has differing beliefs, witchcraft is more an accusation hurled to belittle, alienate, and hurt. Looking around at various belief systems it seems that contemporary religious types often refer to pagan or indigenous practices as witchcraft: placing them on the primitive, or worse, ignorant superstition shelf.

Primitive and tradition do not equate with ignorant superstition, more like the reverse in many cases.

I try to avoid describing the magic I use in Keeper of the Way as witchcraft merely to avoid ignorant labelling or dismissing of traditions that were once the centre of family and often village life. I also want the traditions kept separate from wicca, which is a modern construct recreated from what is known of the misty past of pagan traditions. This means that I need to research spells, tools, and methods so I don't veer too closely to the more recent traditions of the 1900s or 20th Century. Not an easy task considering that true records of traditions are not that common.

Hearth, household, and kitchen magic makes use of herbs, bark, leaves, and other garden tidbits.

(image source: / charlotteclareking0)

Hearth or household magic comes out of spoken traditions passed down through families. When the family line was broken through death, displacement or conversion to new religion, the history was lost. Many familial traditions would have been hidden to safeguard knowledge, power, and family members. The need for secrecy would weaken the potency of the power later magic-users might attempt. We can see this in Keeper of the Way. Rosalie Ponsonby (nee MacKinnon), the matriarch of the family, brought her secret knowledge with her from Scotland to Australia when she emigrated in 1852. Basic pieces of that knowledge that could be used without causing suspicion (what we know as “old wive’s tales” for instance), but the intricacies, those inner-workings that were not used, impact the power that Rosalie and her daughters can manipulate 30 years later. As it was, Rosalie was only 16 when she fled her home so the lessons her mother could hand down to her were interrupted, limiting what she can pass on to her own daughters.

Imagine how the world would be if indigenous belief systems, so integrated with daily cultural lifestyles was given as much attention and considered of equal importance to contemporary knowledge and lifestyle? Imagine if the past was seen as ancient rather than denigrated as primitive and if incomers to a new land weren’t so keen to quash previous cultures but welcomed the learning experience?

So many spoken histories and stories recorded in ways we don’t understand would be available to us. How rich would our life lessons, uninterrupted by ignorance, be then?

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