Once upon a time, two student witches sat in discussion with an old, curmudgeonly Wiccan priest. He asked, “When Wiccans call to ‘the guardians of the watchtowers’ of the four quarters, to whom are we speaking?”
The first witch, who already happened to be a High-Priestess in two different lineages of Initiatory Witchcraft, answered, “There are several possibilities. One choice is the Elemental Rulers: Paralda, Necksa, Djin, and Gob.”
The old priest’s surly eyebrows arch, as he scoffs in surprise. “What? Who told you that?”
Her cheeks redden, betraying her confusion. “Well…all of my teachers; all of the books,” she defends, eyes seeking confirmation from her fellow student.
The second witch, who’d long been upon the eclectic path of Modern Witchcraft (that would be me) chimed right in. “Yes, the elemental Kings and Queens are one choice of guardian. I think of them as the personified collective consciousnesses of the four elemental planes. They rule the beings known as elementals: sylphs, undines, salamanders, gnomes.”
Witchcraft and all of its related practices have long been associated with those who would deign to challenge the status quo. Back when women were persecuted into submission, it is little wonder that the ones who were accused of witchcraft were the ones who stood out, who didn’t fit the mold, who acted “outside their station”, or who otherwise posed a threat to others from a power standpoint. I’ve recently had the fun of mapping out my family tree on Ancestry.comand discovered that I am related to a mother and a daughter who were accused of witchcraft in the late 1600s because the mother had inherited a great deal of property from her father, thus becoming a threat. Thankfully nothing came of those accusations unlike many who were far less fortunate during that time. But it is a prime example of the sort of scenario it took for those to get accused.
Witchcraft is so many things. A way of life. An outlook. An aesthetic. A practice. Some people call it their religion, though I don’t. Ask a handful of witches what witchcraft is and you’ll probably get just as many answers. I did just that. Their thoughts and mine have found their way into this article.
Witchcraft is: transformation, adaptation, active, risky, messy, power and belief. I’ve organized these themes using seven principles of witchcraft: to will, to know, to feel, to go, to dare, to keep silent and to believe, based on the traditional witches’ pyramid. These general themes help describe witchcraft, but the essence of it remains elusive. Because whatever witchcraft is, it is first and foremost deeply personal.