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Author Topic: Review: Witchcraft 101 at Local Pagan Shop (LPS)  (Read 757 times)

TheGreenWizard

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Review: Witchcraft 101 at Local Pagan Shop (LPS)
« on: April 05, 2018, 04:04:54 pm »
Mods: I don't know where to put this, and used my best judgment for here, since it is a resource, and the class itself was targeted as a beginner class.

Context/Background:
I have been practicing witchcraft for about 3 years now on and off, and seriously studying it for the past 8 months, mainly thanks to the awesome resources and community here at The Cauldron. I identify as a cis white gay male with my ethnicity being tied to different European heritages, namely Italian, German, Polish, and a few other ones, like French, Welsh, and Dutch (you'll see why I brought this up later). My practice is unique in that I focus on blending my science background with my magickal learnings. What this means is I look at resources and information with a very critical eye and see if it is the best knowledge currently on hand. When I'm done, I then decide how to incorporate it into my current practice. That said, I have an open mind, and love to discuss things out, especially different interpretations, and try my hardest to be objective. Lastly, due to my current job, I try my hardest to communicate clearly and succinctly (though these two goals can clash).

Please, if you have any questions, ask away!

What is this review of?
Specifically, this review is of the Witchcraft 101 class at Catland Books in Brooklyn NY. The class was run by Dakota Hendrix, co-owner of the shop, and founder of Black Hand Conjure. Dakota uses the "They/Them/Their" pronoun set. I'll be focusing on the content of the class primarily.

The venue - Catland Books - is a great hole in the wall store that sets up an occult atmosphere: there's plants growing and drying visibly in the shop; animal bones are on sale; potions, powders, and candles are on full display and sale; and they have a small - but great - selection of books. I definitely suggest coming here if you're looking for something off the beaten path in NYC.

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly
Format: The class was approximately 2.5 hours long and before we started, Dakota told us that it would be in the form of a discussion; however, throughout the class, it was evident that it was more of a lecture with some questions peppered in.

The Good
What I liked about this class were the parts that related to my own practice, including, but not limited to:
--> the hows of spell crafting and spell casting (the former is how to prep for the spell and gather ingredients; the latter is actually doing the spell)
--> the types of magic and spells
--> the explicit instruction of being like a scientist: record your spells, your observations, and reflect on what the hell happened to see if it worked or not (and then tweak it like an engineer would)
--> purification vs cleansing vs protection
--> sigils
--> intertwining of social justice into your craft

Dakota does a great job with repeating the mantra that we need to record and reflect otherwise we don't know what is working and what is not. They were also really great at answering questions in a cohesive manner (for the most part - I'll get into this more later). Lastly, they really do want your spells to work and give you the knowledge - not necessarily the tools - of what magic to use, what spell type, what materials, and more. This is something that has been - in my own practice - lacking because I know with my schedule that I sometimes cannot commit to doing spellwork regularly.

Dakota made it a point that one shouldn't culturally appropriate practices from foreign influences, often time through very charged/emotional messages. I agree that anyone in the craft shouldn't be utilizing white sage - it's apparently overharvested and is starting to go extinct, but they didn't provide sources for said information unlike this particularly well worded post on Tumblr - or other herbs/practices from cultures not their own that are currently practicing their religion/religious system. However, I'll get into why I disagree with how they presented this material to an audience of beginners.

The Bad & Ugly
However, there are several things that raised alarms in my head during our "discussion." The very first one was the heavy influence of astrology (Western to be specifc) and divination within the presentation. For example, being an Aquarius means I'm often out to lunch mentally (to use their words, "{I} Don't know where {I am}"). Furthermore, our signs have specific divination practices that work best - Aquarius is lithomancy or crystal reading, while Taurus is palm reading. Problem being... Tarot works really fucking well with me.

Another flag was their disrespect or shallowness to people's interpretations of what magick and spellcraft are and remembering them in the course. For example, my viewpoint is they are used to help reprogram the mind to attain a certain goal (which was stated in the beginning of the class by another attendee) and that it is done on a personal level. However, when we discussed the different types of divination, namely inductive, interpretative, and intuitive, the first two are more valid than the last because they're based on systems. The last one is more your personal gnosis (commonly referred to as Unverified Personal Gnosis or UPG on the boards). The general sense that I got from Dakota was that intuitive divination - such as meditation or dreamwork - is not valid within their framework or view of witchcraft, which nullifies spirit initiation, self-initiation, and even anything that involves going with your gut.

This cognitive dissonance was something that really didn't feel right with me, and I found that seed to continue growing as the class went on. In particular, when we got to how to make sigils - a subject I wasn't familiar with but wanted to learn - I can't use this viewpoint. Apparently, one must be specific with their goals but not TOO specific; it's okay to create a sigil for trying to get employment through the use of HIRE ME, but I should learn self-control and better money management skills if I want to save up money for a particular goal. Again, they didn't do a great job of communicating the true message of the content, instead, choosing to say snide comments.

It goes even further though: apparently if you are ancestrally European, you need to stay within those cultures' religious systems and out of others. Being predominantly German, Italian, and Polish, that means I can only practice witchcraft that is Italian, Estruscan, German (Heathen), Celtic, Anglo-Saxon, in nature. I can choose to practice Greco-Roman because those cultures are dead; but apparently, I can't have Egyptian deities in my pantheon if I don't have ancestry from Egypt. Oh, and if you don't know your ancestry? Do a 23AndMe or Ancestry DNA test to find out and go from there...

One last thing was their willingness to teach curses to people they do not know. It's one thing to teach seasoned witches cursework; it's quite the other to topically teach beginners about curses and how to perform them... and even offer several spells for such actions. They stated that curses are fine because one did not sign an ethics contract when initiated into witchcraft - save your own ethics which you'll need to navigate on your own (which they implied). Furthermore, the way they presented this message was not straightforward, and it took me a lot of unpacking in my mind to get to this message.

Overall

The class content was decent - the spellcraft and spellcasting material was quite useful and more succinct than what others have stated in their books or videos or podcasts. However, one must keep in mind that they can take what works for them - within reason of course - if it resonates with oneself. Also - and this is something that I will do in the future - I recommend reading up on the person in question and talking with them either before or after the event to get a general vibe from them (yes, more intuition). I suggest thsi because often the content will be marvelous, but the speaker not so much - which drags down the wonder of the content. I've seen this as a lecturer and as a attendee - if the content is shit, but the lecturer is amazing and can whip it up into a story, then the audience will be able to enjoy it and understand it more.

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You're on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who'll decide where to go...”
― Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Places You'll Go

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