Tuesday, July 26 2016 at 7:00PM
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20a Portugal Place
What's the talk about?
Ash Pryce has cancelled, due to ill health. His replacement will be the Robin Taylor, who was orginally scheduled for the event in March 2016.
Robin Taylor will talk about witchcraft and the active imagination. He is Vice-President of the Pagan Federation, and practices Wicca with occasional excursions into Heathenry and Druidry.
There are still those who practice witchcraft in the modern world, either as solitary individuals or in groups known as covens. Wicca, a tradition founded last century in which I practice in a group context, has aspects of witchcraft, ritual magic, and initiatory mystery religion.
Wiccan groups maintain cohesion by orthopraxy rather than orthodoxy: everyone takes part in the same ritual and engages with the mythology of that ritual, but none can prescribe an interpretation to another, and there is no actual requirement to believe anything, which fits in very well with a sceptical viewpoint in a largely post-religious world. Witches see active yet fluid ritual engagement with mythology as a way of cultivating and merging reason, imagination and action.
Common themes in the practice of witchcraft are being careful what you wish for and looking at the consequence of intentions and actions, and deftly steering the web of the world with a light touch while being responsive to its structure. This overlaps with the habits of mind required to move to a more sustainable society.
This justification would not have worked in the past, when there was wide belief in the direct efficacy of magic both for good and ill, and in the actual existence of supernatural entities. The talk will cover what is known of witchcraft from the period of the Greek magical papyri and before, the survival of the magical tradition in the middle ages under Christianity and Islam, the persecution of witches in the time of Matthew Hopkins and the English Civil War, and the more open adoption of the title of witch in the last century.