Witchcraft is a way of personal responsibility; we choose what we believe. How we express, worship, change, and live those beliefs are entirely our own and no one else’s. Sometimes, we meet people along the way who share our Path, and often we don’t. We still, however, have a certain set of rules and regulations upon which we can all agree to live our lives in a society. Some are set in state or federal laws—don’t rape, kill, or steal—and others are not so defined. Where does that leave the witch, especially in times of evil actions?
What is the social responsibility of the witch, when the witch’s path is so highly individualized?
At first it appears that it is up to each witch to decide, doesn’t it? And in a way, it is. There are some things that I would hope that as good, decent human beings, not just witches, we could all agree upon. On principle, we all agree that violence, especially unprovoked violence on innocent folk, requires actions to mitigate its effects and comfort those affected. Anyone can choose to provide donations, comfort and safe places to mourn and heal. But the witch?
The witch can do so much more… and ought to choose to do more.
As each path is so highly individualized, and emphasis placed upon doing what the witch feels is correct, there are a range of actions that a witch can take that are not available to others. Whatever your Path asks of you to do in this instance, DO IT. We must all find our way through the effects of evil actions, no matter their target. Hexes or curses upon the perpetrators, energy work aimed at comforting victims, candle magick to bring light to the darkness… witches have weapons to use and WE SHOULD USE THEM.
Recently, violence knocked down a door very close to where I make my home. I live in Pittsburgh, PA, and violent crimes are nothing new. However, this time, it was personal. The Tree of Life Synagogue was violated by a man crazed with hate, simply because of religious differences. He shot and killed eleven people, some of whom I knew personally from living and working in the area for years. As I watched the interfaith vigil in Oakland—the second such vigil—broadcast over the television, many different religious leaders stood up and gave messages of hope, comfort, and offered services. The Muslim community even offered to stand guard outside Jewish services or escort Jewish folk to the grocery store until they felt safe again. They raised over $90,000. I recently attended a pagan and witchcraft event… while the shooting was acknowledged verbally, there was no collection box or donation bin to be seen. I was highly disappointed to see that nothing was being actively asked of the attendees on behalf of the synagogue shooting victims.
But… then I checked my witch privilege.
Traditionally, witches have operated in secrecy, to keep themselves and each other safe. Many still need such protection and security, even though religious freedoms are supposed to be guaranteed by law in this country. Many times during history, every religious path has experienced such discrimination and persecution that secrecy of practice was necessary. I have recently experienced this personally. So I will not send out a call for a public display of solidarity from my fellow witches, nor will I hold it against the organizers of the event I recently attended. It is tempting! It’s sorely tempting because other, more socially accepted religious, secular and spiritual practices get to proudly state their contributions of money or emotional support or security. I recognize that asking witches to do this with so much persecution still aimed at us is irresponsible. It would be very nice if we could do that and still be secure in our jobs, friendships, and families… but, as I was recently reminded, that is a utopia at this point. We’ll get there someday, but we are not there yet.
So what is the social responsibility of the witch, when society refuses to respect, validate or sometimes even acknowledge them? What could we possibly owe a society who still, in the 21st Century, fears us and doesn’t want us near their kids? And should that responsibility depend on the individual ways of each witch?
First of all, as I said before, there’s the HUMAN responsibility: we’re all in this together, and we might as well help each other out because nobody else will. We all share this globe spinning unemotionally through space and hurtling itself around the sun, so just chip in and help out your fellow members of humanity. Or you can look at it this way: humans have one job to do, and that’s to be the best of ourselves that we can, including helping out each other whenever and wherever we can.
Witches are humans, but we have chosen to access and be accessible to something more. And while we are each answerable to that in our own individual ways, and we have our own separate ways of being accountable to that, the fact is: WE ARE ACCOUNTABLE. And we need to do more.
For some witches, this may look like casting Love & Light energy out into the world. For others, hexing perpetrators of crimes. And the list goes on: warding our neighbors’ houses, leaving talismans for protection in public spaces, setting out offerings to Brigid or Artemis on our altars, casting defensive spells over workplaces… even invoking the mercy of Quan Yin to help soothe victims. We must do more of what we are capable of doing, which is be witches! As all of our superheroes have taught us: with great power, comes great responsibility. Maybe we don’t have the power to repel bullets or read a stranger’s mind and intercept his ability to inflict massive destruction. We know what we are capable of doing as witches, and we know that the Universe responds to our will. We cannot wait for utopia to show up and enlighten those who cause us to hide ourselves, nor can we live in fear of violence. If the recent shooting proved anything, it is that religious intolerance eventually leads to violence, and so witches may be more tempted than ever to buckle down and disappear. But we can’t! Fear is no way to live. Regardless of how you think a witch should conduct themselves and regardless of what Path you walk, take it upon yourself to do something more. Society will only get worse if we don’t.
Author: Witchwriter of Silfren Circle