It really doesn't matter where they were; the world at that time was nothing like it is now. No one lived then who had a vision of a blue globe glowing in the black void of space; no one lived then who knew every mountain chain and what lay beyond every ocean. No one had even the first idea of the many different sorts of people or civilizations that might be encountered if they traveled far enough in any direction. What "world" means to us now is nothing like what it meant to them.
These ancestors were wise in other ways; they lived on the soil, under the sky, with an infinite omnidirectional power of multi-faceted life and mystery stretching away from them: the mystery of the ancestral land. It was linked, harmonically, to the mystery of the glowing stars in the freezing night, whose shapes traced out destiny. This was the foretime of our ancestors; animals spoke, all things possessed strange powers, and Gods and demons walked the earth and fought for supremacy amid the majestic forces of nature's great body. The dead were not severed away and gone; they dwelled in the land, as part of it; they interacted with the living in regular ways and following hidden cycles of the dusk-world.
As our people wandered and spread out into the unknown, they came to know of the other peoples they encountered; and they knew, after a course of countless centuries of mystical connection, even deeper lores about the land and sky which they had organically learned through spectral intercourse with the spirit world: that intensely mysterious "other side" of life, reached through extraordinary states of conscious awareness. They knew what they needed to know then about the luminous ruling powers- strange divine entities- that ruled the plains of the heavens, and they knew, from an even earlier date, about the spirits that appeared as plants and animals, and about the spirits of the dead, in the gaping darkness of the world below.
They knew about primal forces that were divine, who were so old as to be nameless, but still potent- the dark female spirit who through the noose of death around the dying and bound all things with Fate beneath the grave, and who drew souls to birth from the black waters below; they knew about the entity who emerged from the deepest places of the soul as a mighty, antlered being, with a potent and erect phallus, master of serpents and beasts; they knew about the whirling, rushing, windy inspirer of rage and ecstasy; they knew the land itself as a feminine entity of titanic, giving and taking power, mother to all that lived.
They knew of malevolent entities, enemies of the bright powers and some, very ancient, dwelling serpent-like in the land and waters, corrupting and consuming, hording and destroying with disease and cold and fire. They saw the struggles of the spirit world, mimicking the struggles of the earthly world, the numinal and phenomenal fully inter-connected, within each realm and between them, across the misty border of twilight-states. They saw the great cycles of space, time, sun, moon, birth, life, season, and death, endlessly whirling within the spindle of unguessable Fate and her pale handmaidens.
Among these men and women, our greatest grandmothers and grandfathers, as among all people in the ancient world, there arose a segment of spiritual workers who had the prerequisite strangeness about them, the cunning or bravery or unexplainable warping of mind, body, or soul which gave them access to the unseen. This special quality made them capable of channeling the mysteries of the unseen world, with all its living powers and bizarre, ancient entities, into the frame of reference of the common man or woman gathered around the night-time fires. They were practitioners of a series of related-though-broad spiritual esoteric sciences and practices, giving them the power to interact with unseen powers, speak to the dead, divine and prophesize, propitiate spirits, and move in spiritual journeys beyond the boundaries of the body, into the whiteness and darkness beyond sense and easy conception.
These men and women- the first sorcerers of these ancients- were parts of a cultural phenomenon captured distantly by the ancient word WEIK- "that which regards sorcery and religious matters". One etymological branch of that old word, WIK, pertains to the "sacred", the "holy", and the act of consecrating and even sacrificing. From WEIK, through its branch of WIH, we gain "guile" and "craftiness"- and seership, the person of the seer or prophet, and the sorcerer. We gain WEID, WID and WIT, "to see" and "to know"- two functions that are always connected in the ancient root-languages; from WEIK, finally, we gain WIKKE and WIKKERIE- and finally, down through the corridors of time's mutations of language, we gain "Witch."
WEIK might be called the "religion of the sorcerers", but to those ancients, religion and sorcery were not yet evolved so far apart as to be seen as radically different or opposed to one another. Today, most see the two institutions of sorcery and religion as diametrically placed across a spectrum from one another; in reality, anciently, a more holistic view likely existed, displaying the mysteries of the holy and terrifying Unseen World as an integral part of what they experienced as "this world"- such that interaction with the unseen powers was as much an interaction with the deep places of the self as with the deep places of the world. Interacting with "them" was both religious and sorcerous- intended to bring about needful ends.
Most of us know where this true story of these ancient people goes: vast gulfs of time rise up and they break apart, migrate, wander, and enter into the group-story of other branches of the human family, always taking their related but mutating languages and sacred cultural root-concepts with them. They begin to take on different surface identities, drawn from changes in language that naturally occur when they integrate foreign languages they discovered, and they changed in response to the different lands they came to inhabit, coming to know new powers, civilizations, and mysteries. Their wise people laid down the seeds that would become what we call "myths" today; in some places, they lifted glittering cities to the sky and tamed the seas, empires rose and conquered and fell, and in others, they lived among forests and valleys in small groups and villages, maintaining a thriving and ancient tradition of storytelling and vibrant expressions of poetic art.
As time passed, "religion" and "sorcery" did drift apart into two separate-seeming phenomena; temples and state religions and priesthoods arose, and practitioners of the far-flung arts of WEIK dwindled into an indistinct group of practitioners of the spirit-art, in dozens of unique local forms, sometimes they were respected, in other places and times were seen with ambivalent eyes, and in others, with some fear or hostility. As ages passed, one thing remained the same: the Unseen World never lost its ability to confuse, frighten, or cause wonder. It was never explained away. It still has not been; and I contend that it never will be.
Ages changed and changed again, and a world like the one we know now began to take shape. The rather flimsy story of "history" became more and more codified as a tool of the powerful, and the spiritual destiny of all people in the west fell into the lap of the conquering monotheistic Catholic faith. With that institution arose a Europe which began to organize itself into the national groupings we know now; and in that recent chapter of civilization's story, the stories of Gods, spirits, witches, and the world of the foretime have all become dim, shallow curiosities to most, and academic stock found on the dusty shelves of libraries and universities. Within those bits and pieces of the cultural past one may find just hints of the great world that once existed; one may also find keys to the doors that lead deep into the past, to the feet of the men and women who practiced WEIKERIE- the elder "craft" of the cunning and wise, those who see and know in ways that others cannot or will not.
Even in this world, this electron-haunted, mass-media linked world of consumers and bright lights, the strange powers that gathered behind the men and women of the WEIK still exist; as old as the desert sands or the steppe winds, as old as the lineage of oaks or ravens, the strangeness of the Unseen is still there.
In the Middle Ages, the potent echoes of Weikerie still glanced about the forests and village corners; to the laps of the healers, herbalists, hedge-sorcerers, craft-keepers and storytellers fell the ancient inheritance of the preternatural legacy of the foretime, though it was not (by this time) received in some directly “transmitted” form from other people; it came in a more profound way, as a part of the natural and innate metaphysic of the souls of people descended from the ancestors who knew WEIK, and from spirits. As the hateful "enlightenment" came, with its new sorcery of science and soul-choking materialistic empiricism, even those final bearers of the wisdom of the ancient world dwindled into caricatures encircled by mocking overtones of "superstition."
Today, the notion of the religions and magical systems of the past as "absurd" and "superstitiously ignorant" still informs the minds of most so-called "educated" people- but the presence of WEIK is far from dead or stamped out. Like the Unseen World of which it is a part, it is forever dynamic and able to morph and transform and hide and appear, revealing itself even today in what times and places it will. The chief "place" it reveals itself, in forms sometimes ancient and sometimes unique to the modern day, is in the minds of men and women who bear the spiritual mark and developmental disposition required to make a fertile manifesting ground for it. Through those minds, minds that become bridges and gates, blade-edge bridges and doors of dream and nightmare, the oldest of stories is still playing out, still shaping the destinies of individuals and groups, and through them, the world, in subtle ways of connection.
WEIK, in its most ancient root-form, was certainly what we might describe as "necromantic", "land-centered", "mantic" in the sense of "divinatory", and even "shamanic", to coin an academic phrase appropriated from a people of distant Siberia. If we are to take the reports of sorcery throughout the ages as partial evidence for the shape of the distant "magical seeds", we can say that WEIK dealt with the transformation of the mind and perceptions into shapes that could perceive the unseen; it dealt with the idea of journey through the skies and through night in a spirit-form or subtle body that could change its shape, and ride with spirits in the liberation of flight; it dealt with communication with the dead and the elfin spirits of the land, the "waihts" or "ansu" or the "people" under the hills- whether they be natural hills or burial mounds.
It dealt with propitiating nature-spirits that inhabited (and still inhabit) the natural world; it dealt with trance-delirium for the purpose of prophecy. It dealt with curses and cures for diseases; it dealt with deception of the senses and control of the faculties of others. It dealt with herb lore and wortcunning, the use of sacred intoxicants, and of mystical influence over the weather and beasts.
Within WEIK was certainly a notion of immortal spirit-bodies that survived the grave, and of transformations that could overcome the living and the dead in the post-mortem state, and how spirits could be bound, released, or accessed. Within it was a notion of rebirth for some, by mysterious means, and a notion of deadly, fatal consequence, binding all beings based on their deeds and Fate. There was a notion, as old as the Ancients themselves, of the birth and death and regeneration of the cosmos, which each individual life microcosmically demonstrated in its own birth, life, and death.
There was a notion of the transformative turning and binding that held all things together, and made all things- entities of any kind, no matter whether they appeared as human, plant, mineral, animal, or otherwise- actually and sympathetically connected and able to affect one another.
What is one to make of such things? What we must concern ourselves with most is the impact of WEIK's undying legacy on the modern world which it exerts through each of us- we who have felt an attraction to the unknown and occult and the religious or spiritual experiences of the very old times. For some of us, that strange fascination will lead them to the altars of the Old Gods; for a small percentage, it will lead to the door of sorcery in the most authentic sense. The map of that journey leads through many houses and countries, and has many dead ends.
Some despair and never finish the journey. Others, however, find their way to the house of the Binding Weird-Lady and her pale women who weave the Fate of the world, and in the forested hollows of the Antler-crowned king. For some, it leads to the subversive, soul-shattering, soul-stealing and soul-reshaping initiations of the Master of Sorcery, who still leads covens here and there through the back roads of our towns and troubled woods. The dance of the "feery folk" is still going on, following the same ring that it followed when our ancestors first challenged the new world with their bravery and grasp for the extraordinary.
What these people find is more than just the timeless houses of ancient Gods or spirits. They find undimensioned reaches of the self "opened" and new capacities of thinking and experiencing unsealed, just as vibrant and alive as they were in ages past. The sorcerer of today and the sorcerer of ages ago both transcend "religion" and "magic" as a false division; they find the fullness of the human metaphysical potential, the true meaning of "spiritual ecology", and they find the true poetry of life.
The path of Weikerie is not about rebirthing "old religions" into the modern day, though that may be an aspect of it; it would be more accurate to describe it as the ongoing relationship of timeless entities and powers with the modern day, through the minds and bodies of living people. Weikerie's touch is melded seamlessly with the modern day, in surprising ways, but it is still different, ancient and new at once, and mystically potent.
The oldest powers- even those once worshiped as Gods- are still here, and by this distant age, their truest and oldest names have all but passed away into myth and forgetfulness; but their images still emerge from within the deepest places of the folk of WEIK; the spinning grand-crone, the blood-drinking woman of skulls, the phallic antlered man, the entity of light and raging force of insight, the spirit of the storm, the bodies of light in the ground, the fruitful and perilous earth-mother, the women in the wells and waters, the serpent-monsters and theriomorphs in the deep places, the hosts of the heavens and hells.
These images are not just phantasmagoria from a forgotten age; they are the avatars of real potencies that forever live in the out-weaving of the universal pattern. We, too, as human beings live in them and interact with them, forever. It matters not how much we have forgotten our place in things, and our place in the ancient tree of spectral inter-relation. The universe whirls on regardless, to our detriment if we remain forgetful. These images and forces live in us- all of us- at the deepest levels, and no matter of a few thousand years of following the creed of an alien religion and metaphysic can spare us the destiny-patterns set down by uncountable millennia of ancestral expression. When we rediscover the power of WEIK, we rediscover who and what we really are- because this story I've been telling isn't fiction. It's reality; it was real; these grandmothers and grandfathers were real, and these beliefs were held by more of our ancestors than not.
We are those grandmothers and grandfathers, living now- spirit-bodies passed down through timeless spheres of experience, swam back to a human experience, all human bloodlines still bound by the patterns of ritual and culture and belief of the past, and shaped by true sorcerous workings of magnitudes that even myths today cannot adequately express. Their poetry was ours; their sorcery is ours, too. What sorcery channeled then is what it channels now- something trans-cultural and far beyond the human range of full comprehension; in real sorcery is a freedom from any limitation imposed by cultural boundary or twist of moral or politics. It is an encounter with the most authentic, timeless forces and powers, as they exist in the bodies and minds of men and women- and when taken far enough, sorcery is the final and ultimate transformation of a person's destiny.