“No one writes good music anymore.”
“All the best movies have already come out.”
“Fiction today just isn’t what it used to be.”
I’ve seen the same complaint leveled across multiple interest areas. Over and over again, the refrain of ‘the new stuff is terrible’ rings out. From people who think metal began and ended with Iron Maiden, to folks stuck on the problematic musicals of the past, to fantasy readers who refuse to pick up anything written by someone whose name they don’t recognize, the song is the same.
This past week, I heard that refrain sung by a Pagan elder: “These young people aren’t witches because they don’t practice my form of witchcraft and I think maybe witchcraft is dying” (I’m paraphrasing, of course).
There’s instrumentation under that song – did you know?
Do you know what it’s playing?
The chords underneath are from a song with a different title. It’s called ‘I haven’t been keeping up.’
Listen, I’m as guilty of it as the next 40-something. We find our comfort zone. We find a system that works for us. We get comfortable there. It’s like that amazing easy chair with the utterly destroyed upholstery that isn’t exactly supportive anymore, but we love to collapse into it at the end of the day. It’s *known*. It’s familiar and doesn’t challenge us and maybe the lumbar support is gone but we love it so we’re keeping it.
Here’s what I know from being a yogi: rigidity is death. And when we’ve been stuck for so long, unmoving in our trashed easy chair, things that jostle us out of stillness can feel painful. They can feel like destruction. Even when all they’re really doing is helping us stretch our atrophied muscles.
Witchcraft is NOT dead. Witchcraft is transforming. A wave of stunning new voices is taking a look at older practices and choosing different threads to follow. A groundswell of magickal innovators is building entirely new magickal and ritual tech that *works.* More people are joining the conversation around witchcraft and pagan spirituality, and those voices are magnificently diverse. Conversations are happening on platforms that make witchcraft accessible to an entirely new audience. Remember, books are great, but they’re not accessible for everyone. The branching out into podcasts, videos, blogs, and various social media accounts means that people who have been hearing the call of the Winding Path their entire life can finally step onto it. A new crop of teachers are supporting an entire world of students who were just waiting for the kind of classroom they could access. Just because that classroom is called ‘Tiktok’ doesn’t mean it’s any less of a learning environment.
I’m not telling you to throw the baby out with the bathwater. I’m telling you that you need a larger bathtub. And you need to stop immediately dismissing different tub shapes as useless or irrelevant.
As a midlife witch, I’m really lucky: my community, Frederick CUUPS, skews younger. This means some of my close friends are in their 20s or early 30s. They’re on platforms I struggle to understand, learning and creating new ways of connecting to the world. Through the benefit of their counsel and example, the teachers and leaders they follow and endorse, I’ve been able to expand my worldview.
I’m not keeping up as well as I would like to sometimes, but I’m also not stuck. I’m learning. Sometimes I collapse back into my easy chair of 90s-era teachers and authors, but I don’t stay there. The real power of the witch is liminality – the ability to exist untethered to specific points in the physical universe and timestream. We must be able to look forward as well as backwards.
So, how do we get out of the easy chair?
My favorite approach involves keeping an eye on the presenters at Pagan and Metaphysical conferences. Specifically, I look for presenters who are black, people of color, or folks noticeably younger than me. I pick three names I do not know and look them up online. I learn about what they’re offering and then choose one to add to my witchworld – I follow them on social media, watch their videos, and read their articles.
That’s it. Just add one voice here and there. I’m slowly building a bigger bathtub, slowly adding better lumbar support to that old easy chair. And I can tell it’s working because when I see someone sing the ‘everything new is terrible’ song, I know for a fact that they are wrong.
Yes, some of old witchcraft is being discarded: the patriarchal, heteronormative, white supremacist structures we inherited from the 1950’s rebirth of the Path are being dragged out into the light and exposed for what they really are. We’re looking at our Shadows and doing the work of understanding them and finding new expressions that do not carry the harmful patterns we were given. Witchcraft *should* change. Spiritual practices must meet the evolving needs of their practitioners and the changing world we are a part of. We’ve all seen what happens to a belief system that becomes too rigid (looking at you and your ongoing exodus of followers, fundamentalist Christianity). If this path becomes rigid, that’s when we’re really looking at the death of it.
The world moves on if you don’t keep up. Pining for the pagan culture of 30 years ago means you miss the extraordinary power and beauty of what’s happening right now. Transformation and death are not the same and confusing the mess in the chrysalis for the End Of All Things means you’re missing the butterfly taking form.
And y’all, the wings in here are going to be stunning.
Witchraft is dead. Long live Witchcraft!
Addendum protip: pick three, pick one works well on other interest areas – music, theater, your preferred genre to read, etc. We’re coming into the dark season anyway. Grab some new media to travel into winter with. It’ll make next spring’s flowers even more beautiful.
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