Robin Artisson's Considered Response to the Reuters Wiccans who Complained that True Blood was "Giving Witchcraft a Bad Name."
"A Popular TV Show Finally Depicts Sorcerers and Witches Properly."
"A Popular TV Show Finally Depicts Sorcerers and Witches Properly."
By Robin Artisson
Copyright © 2011
True Blood Rocks, Bigger Than Ever- So Why The Long Faces, Fangbangers?
Just the other day, I was preparing to write an article about how great the current season of True Blood is. I was going to talk about how realistic and powerful their portrayal of the 16th century necromancer- Antonia Gavilan- was, and how delightfully flaky and fun (and realistic) their depiction of Wiccans was. The degree to which the lead Wiccan character in the show, a medium named Marnie, is so weird and conflicted lends to her character a realistic feel of the strife encountered by legitimate mediums who lack formal understanding or even the needful culturally-encapsulated training to handle such a gift.
But my plan was cut short. It was cut short by a very undiscriminating media outlet, who allied themselves with a team of publicity hungry Wiccans, to criticize the portrayal of witches in True Blood. What are the chances? Robin Artisson is appreciating what might be the first real legitimate mass-media portrayal of a powerful sorceress on television, a necromancer from the 16th century, and Wiccans somewhere (ever media-hungry for the sexy scandal spotlight) are squealing against it! Their complaint? That Antonia, the Necromancer portrayed on True Blood, is "giving Witchcraft a bad name."
So, I had to sit down and write this response, a response to the Wiccans who were interviewed by Reuters and to Christopher Penczak who (not surprisingly) joined them in defending their fully unhistorical and inauthentic modern version of "witchcraft", and to set the record straight on why Antonia- the Necromancer from True Blood- is the best thing that the public has ever seen, when it comes to understanding the truth about historical Sorcery, and the men and women who engaged it.
But something deeper motivated this response- two things, really; my own experience with the hidden core of that particular strain of historical sorcery (and the extreme states of mind tied to it) that has come down to us under the title of "witchcraft", and the most fundamental, intolerable reality of the new-age movement as a whole: the way that it has pathologized all (so-called) “negative” emotions, creating a false and bloated over-focus on "positivity"... and the further way that its resultant lack of wholeness has led its proponents to distort the historical realities of actual sorcery, and the humans that worked it and experienced it throughout time.
You Give Love... A Bad Name
To hear these Wiccans talk- and talk they do, in the Reuters story that you can read here and in countless places on and offline- any witch who tries to get revenge on others, who tries to harm others, "isn't a real witch"- and are giving "witchcraft" a "bad name".
To begin with, no one except “rede beating” Wiccans, in my way of seeing, are giving witchcraft a "bad name". To end with, does it strike anyone else as telling that these Wiccans are using the same logic that fundamentalist Christians (and most Christians generally) use anytime they want to distance themselves from the very real harmful actions that Christians have performed against others throughout history? The oft-repeated assertion that the Christians who were crusaders or inquisitors or witch-hunters "weren't real Christians?"
The new age discomfort with witches being portrayed as fully human, and having the full range of human emotions (negative or positive, however hopelessly simplistic and subjective those terms may be), is fully isomorphic to the Christian discomfort with Christians also being fully human and therefore capable of kindly AND foul acts.
Let me say it up front: a person expressing anger, vengefulness, or hate doesn't cease being a sorcerer or a sorceress anymore than the same kind of behavior stops a person from being Christian. It doesn't give "sorcery" or "witchcraft" a bad name. It merely presents a reality that we must all accept, and a reality that we have for too long (whether new-ager, new-age "Wiccan", Christian, or secularist) denied- that every human being is a full vessel of every possible state of mind, every emotion, and that Nature designed us this way for a good reason.
They deny the more subtle truth that the key to our own personal and collective peace and wisdom isn't drawing a dividing line down the middle of that vessel and ignoring one side, but drinking the whole thing down, and learning to wisely integrate what is there into the omnipresent wholeness which is found in the world and in every person. Easy to say, but hard to do! But without trying, no peace in the future for us is possible.
Nothing Less Than Wholeness
Nothing less than the truth about us will ever serve to heal what divisions slice deeply into the blood and body of this world and our cultures. New-agers help to create those divisions by continuing- ironically- the same "witch hunt" started by Christians- except now, the witches are "negative" emotions which must be "banished" or driven from the body as visualized dark clouds, and replaced with visualized "white light" that enters you and "heals" you.
This isn't healing; this is amputating half of our own humanity and our natural power. And the result is just what you see, everyday (if you pay attention)- New-ager media clowns that try to pass themselves off as hippie love-lords in public, but who, in their private circles, are power-hungry, controlling, tyrannical, sexually depraved, and petty. Many of them even succeed at gradually becoming open egomaniacs in public, but they don't tend to last very long after that point.
In the integration that I spoke of above, the powers that dwell in us which may have the propensity to encourage us to act unwisely, are held safely amid the power of all the others, and we find the truth behind that hideously-abused and overused word: balance. I prefer the terms "conscious completion" or "wisdom recognizing wholeness", or perhaps even “the grail”- but even our beloved Arthurian legends have largely become a new-age flophouse.
Only a person who accepts- fully accepts- and integrates their propensity to harm or be unwise, alongside their propensity to be kindly or loving, can ever be whole, or free- or genuinely "moral" in a sense that transcends localized codes of morality.
That person can be more like Nature Herself- able to wield, without obstruction, the powers of Giving and Taking, when necessity calls for them, and able to spread love- or vengeance- when it is proper to do so. And yes, despite the new-age propaganda that may preach otherwise, there is a time and a place for love and for strife, for creating and destroying. When we frame it in terms of "self-defense", the idea of killing another suddenly seems so rational and normal, if regrettable. But when we talk about using something as natural (though rare) as sorcery to defend oneself, or to right a legitimate wrong, suddenly it seems so diabolical.
And why? Because, from the highest levels, people are taught to be afraid of themselves and the power that potentially lurks in nearly everyone- and they are taught to doubt that the divine force in their own person could ever be a vessel of wisdom, guidance or justice. Most people are taught to look to the powerful institutions that exist in the world for the resolution to these sorts of issues, institutions that purport to answer those "big questions" with the pre-fabricated, shallow, and half-wise answers they've peddled for so long.
The voice of real, natural wisdom is silent; in its place the rote words of dusty pages fall into the uncreative minds of the sheep-herding priests and preachers (themselves also victims of this system) who are content to herd all that searching human potential, and to aid their institutions in vampirically feeding off of the mass anxiety and mass longing that they hold the shepherd's crook over. No member of such institutions can start the walk towards being a real, whole human; fear closes that door. For reasons of fearful "piety" and contrived "holiness", they will remain half-humans, forever, the victims of the real vampires that no show is ever made about.
In some cases, a few rare cases, people should be afraid of what lurks within us. In a world of wholeness, as in the world of nature itself, fear can be a helpful reaction. Wisdom might be defined (further) as knowing when to let fear teach you a lesson.
One of the problems I am addressing today stems from a dullness inherent in our culture. It begins when you have new-agers buying wholesale into hopelessly naive and unrealistic (and anti-natural) codes of morality which come (in essence) from the same churches they tend to avoid or claim to present an alternative to- codes which, for whatever reason, they MUST believe once informed the ancient strains of witchcraft and sorcery which they so unsuccessfully look to as spiritual ancestors.
But more on that in a moment. Let's go to True Blood now, and to the complaints against it, complaints registered by two (before now) unknown spokespersons for modern "witchcraft": A person going by the new-age "craft name" "Taarna RavenHawk", one calling herself "Elaanie Stormbender", and the man who may be the first contender for crown-prince of the new age "magickal" world, the celebrity Wiccan/magician Christopher Penczak.
Reuters Finds Some "Real Witches"- Really?
The Reuters story (which I hope you have read) begins by letting us know that "real witches" are upset about the portrayal of the behavior of Antonia Gavilan, the Necromancer-Spirit who possesses a lead Wiccan character in this season of True Blood. They are as upset by the Wiccan- Marnie Stonebrook- "letting herself become possessed", as they are with the depictions of the ancient sorceress Antonia's vengeance against vampires in the world of True Blood.
The "real witches" on Reuters say that Antonia's deadly vengeance, gained through sorcerous working, is giving "witchcraft" a bad name. They discuss how expert "witches" are at "controlling and banishing" spirits, and how a (presumably) "real" witch you might find today (maybe themselves and their fellows) would never let some spirit or spirits just arbitrarily use their mind and bodies. Mr. Penczak "had concerns about Marnie's negative impact on the overall reputation of witches." Penczak waxes a bit poetic about the "witches" out there that get "good training" and how they "usually learn to balance that with discipline, strength and focus."
Terrible Powers, where shall I start? Reuters didn't find "real witches". They found three new-agers- Wiccans- who have co-opted the title "witch" and layered it on top of their personal mixtures of modern new-age hodge podge. What are these "witches" really doing at heart? They are misrepresenting historical forms of sorcery and spirit-contact, to defend themselves and what they do (and what they choose to call themselves) from the fearful reactions of their neighbors who may not understand their strange choice in names or spiritual practices.
They are, in fact, revising history to suit them and their personal religious industries, and calm down their neighbors. They are fighting a war for positive public opinion, and the truths of history are always the first casualty of that war.
They are attempting (with the help of Reuters) to make people believe that "witchcraft" was always about being in control, being careful, avoiding the extremes of hate or vengeance, "harming none", being prepared to banish after invoking, having discipline, strength, focus- and most importantly, never tampering with "forces beyond their control." Truly?
To suggest that historical forms of witchcraft might have included dangerous, mysterious or uncontrollable elements would be a pretty scandalous thing to suggest (and bad for public relations with the neighbors), even though most people who study worldwide forms of witchcraft and sorcery, especially those extant forms that still deal largely with possession by spirits, know that they actually do include disturbing traditional elements that would terrify our expert Wiccans. Our experts apparently want the “witch” title, and the power it still commands in the unconscious layer of the western psyche, but none of the truly powerful, sometimes dark history that comes with it. That part, they want forgotten.
Our experts want to be as non-threatening to their neighbors as they can, and truly, who could blame them? But I feel I must suggest that what their neighbors need to know isn't that historical witchcraft really was “all lovely”- all those neighbors need to know is that what our Wiccan friends are doing isn't historical witchcraft; it is, instead, a new-age brew of goodness, peace, pop-culture cabbalism, light, so-called "shamanism", ceremonial magic, and karma, which couldn't harm anyone, at any time, ever- unless you consider massive confusion to be "harm".
Mission accomplished! The neighbors are satisfied, and we never needed to re-write history and dumb-down the public further to get our restful sleep at night.
Arcana Mundi: Obtain it, Keep it Secret, Keep it Safe
I have to wonder if Penczak or RavenHawk, or Stormbender, have ever cracked open a book by Georg Luck, entitled "Arcana Mundi: Magic and the Occult in the Greek and Roman World." If they had, they would find the most accessible, scholarly-well done, and enthralling revelation of what we really do know about Witches and Witchcraft, and Necromancy, and Divination, Daimonism, Trance-Possession, and Sorcery from Classical Antiquity. And if you read this wonderful book, which should be on everyone's shelf, you'll see something very enlightening: The makers of True Blood have created in Antonia Gavilan the most realistic depiction of a Necromancer ever seen on television.
Far from misrepresenting historical necromantic sorcery, Antonia embodies it. Women (and men) like her once really existed. They commanded the shades of the dead, made them give omens, divinations, and do favors for them- they threatened them, cajoled them, offered to them, seduced them, and held power over them. It doesn't sound pretty from a Christian or white-light New Ager perspective, but it is the historical fact of the matter.
And modern necromancers who work outside of the new-age current still have a fraction of the power of those authentic traditions available to them. Yes, they exist. Yes, I've known them. And yes, if Penczak or RavenHawk, or Stormbender ever had to talk to them too, they'd likely run away screaming, and (I fear) never laugh at anything, ever again.
I’m not exaggerating much there, for real necromantic practitioners have put their minds and bodies in touch with the supreme Saturnian current at a profound level- the same current that carries us all away at death, and thus, their very minds and personalities resonate with a fatalism and dark wisdom that most cannot handle in its pure form today. To Christians, a meeting with such a person is a meeting with pure "evil"- for in their way of seeing, death and sin or evil are practically synonymous. For most new-agers, a meeting with such a person would likely seem very "negative" or oppressive.
What's even more impressive is the way the very bodies of legitimate necromancers react to that Saturnian current- the one I've known became (as I call her) "the only real goth": always pale without the need for makeup, gaunt without the need for a daily cup of vinegar, and barely existing in any traditionally healthy, vital sense. She became some shade of the world of the dead herself, walking in this one.
If she was depressed, it wasn't because she was "emo" in any way; it was for the reason that she drank from the deepest cup of the Underworld, and most people who see the truth beyond appearances- as only the power of Death can reveal it- find the time to be a little depressed, alongside whatever strange joy they may gain from it.
My hat off to my Necromancer associate- the most powerful one I ever knew- she keeps a real and important part of human history alive in her own person (ironically!) And we need their unique "other side" perspective to stay in a real, powerful balanced perspective ourselves. If you haven’t already, obtain a copy of “Arcana Mundi”- to the properly prepared mind, it can plant the seeds of legitimate tradition, and cause the birth in you of something far beyond anything “Wicca” may offer today.
True Blood’s Necromancer
Antonia the Necromancer is a spirit, who was murdered (burned to death) in the 1500's by vampires, after they raped her, no less. She used her magic to destroy the vampires who colluded in her arrest, rape, and murder- and now that she has inhabited the body of the mostly witless, somewhat sad Wiccan character Marnie, she is using her necromantic sorcery to drive away vampires.
Is this a bad thing? Not at all. In the mythology of the television show True Blood, vampires are blights on nature- not good things. They are impulsive, very powerful, very violent, and almost entirely inhuman. They look upon living humans as little more than insects. As with all modern vampire literature, a few vampires either attempt to hold on to their humanity, somehow, or demonstrate that some shred of humanity still exists in them, at times. But this is the exception, not the rule.
The show’s vampires are not safe creatures to have around. They cannot be restrained by human law enforcement. They can move faster than humans can see; they can overpower anyone they like; they can do what they want, really- only a single vampiric organization attempts to restrain them, in the name of "mainstreaming" or assimilating into the mortal world. But as the show has amply demonstrated, they fail at that enough for humans to really worry- and the way things are presented, humans should worry.
Antonia's necromantic magic affects Vampires because they too, are dead. Antonia herself calls them "unconsecrated walking corpses"- and she's right. They are. She can accelerate in them the natural decomposition that they evade by stealing blood and life from living beings. Vampires are not heroes in a show like True Blood- and rightly so! I think the portrayal of Vampires (fictional though they are) is actually rather mature for mass media. Vampires don't exist in the physical, Anne-Ricey sense that True Blood feeds to us, but if they did, Antonia's powers would affect them just as is presented, at least if historical necromantic theories held true.
Antonia has a right to her vengeance. The vampires that raped and murdered her likely found her in 16th century Spain acting as a medium for people in the cities or countryside- an ancient vocation all over Pagan Europe, and into the Christian period, in places. Those vampires had infiltrated the Church and were abusing that power; they were cruel and (if we follow the lead of the show) likely responsible for a lot of people being burned to death, whether they were legitimate Necromancers or not. Vampires in the show are (rightly) afraid of Necromancers because they know that Necromancers can control them.
Antonia isn't evil to take her vengeance. She is acting, in a way, as the immune system of both Nature (hurrying walking corpses back into the ground where they belong) and a protector of human society- a society (as she points out) which is comprised of true immortals. Vampires, she says in a memorable scene, are not immortal; they are just much harder to kill. Human spirits, however, are immortal, as she has proven by surviving her death on the spiritual plane and passing through time, to manifest herself again.
Human society cannot survive with a supernatural society of vampires dwelling within it; the dark hints of True Blood, and the novels upon which the show is based, show that Vampires as a whole will always be manipulative, passion-driven killers. But unlike humans, many of whom can be described the same way, vampires have almost godlike power to work their will on anyone they choose.
Throughout the season, Antonia has protected innocent humans- Wiccans, in this case- from vampire attacks, using Marnie the medium as a vessel to drive away threats that certainly would have brought about dead Wiccans. Antonia isn't a “bad guy.” She (technically) is the antagonist of this season, but things are not so black-and-white. She seeks righteous vengeance against blighted creatures who don't have the same claim on life that human beings have. And nothing in her character, and nothing she does gives “witches” a bad name, nor diminishes their reputation.
If Wicca presents "witchcraft" as a weak, new-agey thing normally singled out for various degrees of ridicule in the mainstream, Antonia- even as a fictional character- brings a sense of austerity, danger, and old traditional respect back to sorcery, even her necromantic variety. She presents an alternative image of the sorcerously empowered human being, one that we've been lacking for a long time.
True Blood’s Wiccans
The most realistic depiction of the modern occult world on True Blood is the depiction of Wiccans. Marnie (at least before she was possessed by Antonia) leads an embarrassingly realistic coven of Wiccans, out of a metaphysical/new age store in Shreveport, Louisiana. I've seen countless "circles" just like them- and they are accurate down to the jewelry, the props, the chants, the books, the absurd "thank Goddess" exclamations, and their intolerable propensity to mistake magic with "religion".
Marnie angrily responds throughout the show about the Vampires who attacked them, saying that they are innocent Wiccans who were just trying to practice their "religion". But we've seen no religion- just circles, hand-holding, chanting, and glee when they manage to make a dead bird come back to life for a few seconds, or manage to channel the spirit of a deceased person through Marnie.
This isn’t religion, really; this is a low-grade form of new-age sorcery, and the only reason it works as well as it does is because it's a TV show. In real life you wouldn't find the circles or chants doing anything except causing some excited talk about people "feeling" this or that, and well, maybe one person (usually the high priestess) claiming to be "possessed" by "the Goddess"- and occasionally, a "high priest" claiming to embody their mysterious "God".
On my occasions of attendance, no "possessed" Wiccan priest or priestess every said or told me anything (or anyone else there anything) that didn't sound like something a sweet grandma wouldn't say, or a pop-culture psychology book ("Don't be afraid to be yourself!" "Find the love in you!" "Accept your power" "Forgive yourself for what you've done, for I love thee" and dozens of other equally-as-deep messages from the "Gods"). The rest of the time, it was the expected drama, petty games, "great rite" sex, and new-age positivity affirmations.
That's where this all begins and ends. I hate to sound cruel- but my intention isn't cruelty. My intention is honesty to my own experience, and to the experiences many others have shared with me, and honesty to the historical traditions of Sorcery that modern day new-agers either ignore or misrepresent, ostensibly to create in themselves an appearance of traditional legitimacy which their new "magickal arts" don't actually give them, and to give themselves a non-threatening appearance to outsiders. The “craft of the witch” in the old days was always counter-cultural and “outsider”; the craft of Wicca today is very much a social religion, intending itself to be at home peacefully among everyone. This is both a defining and a redefining distinction which is all-important.
I am doubly certain that the majority of people involved in all this new-age business aren't bad people. I know what they thirst for- the promises of the hidden reaches of sorcery and historical witchcraft- but despite the fact that Wiccans use the title "witch" like its going out of style, they do not offer the gateway to what witchcraft was, in historical reality.
They embrace Wicca- a modern synthesis of occult ideas, tied together with modern ritual and modern poetry- not historical witchcraft. They offer (generally speaking) "visualization" training, positive thinking, modern occult self-help science, some Eastern Karma notions, a reincarnation belief, and a moral code that is powerful and simple. All of this is free (at least on the surface) from the absolutist codes of Christianity. And all of that ain't nothin'- it's quite useful and soothing in the lives of many lost souls these days. And truly, all that positive thinking and visualization could even cause minor positive changes in a person, so it ain’t all a waste of time, either. But historical Witchcraft it is not.
The Witchcraft That Was
Witchcraft, in that historical sense, is about allying with (and sometimes taming) powerful spirits- nonhuman persons- from the Unseen world (familiars) and utilizing fair partnership with them to gain power; it is about detaching the consciousness from the body and plumbing the depths of the Underworld and the Unseen world for vision, wisdom, insight, and many other sorcerous goals. It is disturbing, exhilarating, and ultimately, it leaves one wondering about many things. It puts people face to face with something infinite and unexplainable, and makes them comfortable with uncertainty. It makes iron-hard souls that fear cannot rake away, eventually. It reveals Fate’s reality, and it sometimes brings about the early deaths of its participants.
Most importantly, it keys a person in, intuitively, to a perennial aesthetic that feeds the hungry soul of people forced to embrace the spiritual aesthetic of aridity and desert-dwelling frenzy and monotheism brought by Christianity to Europe. The Witch as I mean it is a dweller in the dark bog and broad forests of Old Europe, not some bearded Hebrew patriarch with his cloth-draped women and their camel train.
The Witch is legend; she is the vessel and the oracle of the long-faded wisdom of the Pagan world, transmitted in many strange ways; she is the human image of the primordial mysticism of the ancient Indo-Europeans, and perhaps even the pre-Indo Europeans. She is the human who can become a ghost and then human again. She knows the secrets of the dead. She changes her shape at will. She knows the properties of the growing things of the ground. She is grandmother to all our faery tales and folk-ballads. She is our culture soul’s sorcerous form. She is good and she is evil, and she is beyond good and evil. She is always with us.
What bothers me is just that people tend to find Wicca first (due to the neon-light blinking sign that they’ve set up in our cultural consciousness) and then they stop with Wicca, never questioning what came before, or what might be deeper. Maybe it shouldn't bother me; maybe it's a good thing, because to this day, and after meeting countless Wiccans, I've known maybe two that I thought had the mental fortitude to handle what really lay below the surface of things.
New Age, The Media, and the Destruction of the Occult Heritage of the West
And all of this might be tolerable, and even expected, if the media wouldn't get involved. For me, the occult heritage of the west is a horribly neglected (and very vital) chapter of our common history. So much of what was once important, sacred, or precious passed into the "hidden" side of things, there to be interacted with by occultists and occult luminaries from the great ages before this one.
Occultists in the real historical sense became secret guardians of real treasures from the past. To see the occult world- historical and modern- being represented by new agers, people who lack the simple wisdom to understand the necessity of wholeness, and people who participate unconsciously in the pathologizing of entire segments of human experience, is unconscionable. And to watch Reuters setting up "experts" like this is another nail in the coffin of our true occult heritage.
These Wiccans may not realize it, but the historical occult world didn't share their moral thinking or their pop-psychological shipwreck; and living occultists who draw upon those historical traditions still do not. And yet, if I tried to tell this to my own neighbor who might have read this Reuters story, what then? "Hey Robin! Ain't you one of dem "RavenHawk" people? You do dat "wicca"?" "Why no, Joe, you can't trust the news... they found a bunch of people who have nothing to do with me or "witchcraft" as I know it, and let them speak for me and those like me. Sorry about that. Try to see past the news, Joe."
But Joe can't see past the news. Few these days can.
And history? How many times do I have to hear Wiccans who really still believe (somehow) that "nine million" Wiccans died in the "burning times"? And _every one_ of the brain trusts who still buys this modern myth will tell you that those (mostly) female witches were led to their burning stake with nothing but "perfect love" in their eyes and hearts for their tormentors.
An entire history- an entire human history- of witchcraft has been quite literally whitewashed away under the choking light of "positivity". Witches in the past- real witches- would have hexed the life from your bones had you tried to come into their little neighborhoods and arrest their people or themselves, or their families, or for many other reasons. And thank the Powers for that- sorcery was one of the few ways common people really had of striking back at oppressive authorities, in some of the old days.
No one "bided the Wiccan rede." Not before Gardner, his Rosicrucian Co-Mason pals, and Doreen whipped that (admittedly nice) turn of phrase up. People who survived (and some who died) bided the "hex the shite out of you" rede. That's life. That's reality. Not for no reason does the legend of the witch include the hexing witch. It isn't just propaganda! Real sorcery doesn't come with some ingrained "moral code". It relies on individual humans for that, and well, as they say... "it takes all types."
And a character like Antonia Gavilan is one of the types it takes. She reminds us of our humanity, even in the house of real Sorcery. And she demonstrates real power- what some are capable of. Real power is always a little disturbing; in the same way that the roar of a mighty thunderstorm may make you a little unsettled, a little humbled, this is just its nature.
Love and Hate: the Occult Truth too Awful to Hear (for most)
This brings us back to where we started- my little talk on wholeness, and the new-age discomfort with so-called "negative" emotions. Read on carefully, and quote me on this all you like: now, I'll give you the little gem that your patience in reading my response/rant has earned you.
Love and Hate are not a conflicting “positive and negative” duality. We only say that, and unthinkingly believe that, because we are taught to love love, and hate hate. The reality is this: Love and Hate, if separated from one another and isolated from one another, make no sense. In isolation from each other, neither makes any sense.
This is because Love and Hate are the front and back of the same powerful, unseen hand. If they are given the honor of their natural co-existence, and both accepted, and allowed to speak with their own voice, then suddenly, they both make sense. They help to explain one another. They complete one another, without becoming one another. Then, they can both be known for what they truly are. When one really knows what love is, and what hate is, then (and only then) can one make a true moral choice between them.
If Love and Hate are not known for what they truly are, then what they appear to be really will possess a person- and people quite often become puppets for "hate", to the detriment of themselves and others; and they often believe themselves living for "love", while hurting themselves and others around them, all in love's name. They always find ways to explain away the pain caused by both, and ignore the deeper issue of unwisdom and fragmentation of understanding.
I like to think of it as a scalpel; a single tool which can cut out a tumor, thus saving a life, or stab someone to death. If you didn't know the harming power of a scalpel, you might unthinkingly stab people to death. If you didn't know the helping power of it, you'd never be able to do surgery with it. Yet, surgery relies on sublimated harm, just as love actually does rely on sublimated hate. Anyone who's ever felt love turn into sudden hate for a former intimate partner already knows how close the two are.
Many people can’t abide by this; they demand loudly “how dare you imply that the generous and soul-fulfilling love I have for my children is only a hairsbreadth from hating them!” To be clear, it is. Love and Hate are polarities of the same intense power- what drives your true and intense love as a caring parent is the same wind that drives the intense hate of the fanatic or the racist. But how it is polarized, integrated, and expressed makes all the difference.
The wise must simply never lose sight (as the half-wise do) of the fact that this polarity isn’t as wide a distance as one may feel it to be, nor is it as far apart as we may want it to be. Part of moving towards wholeness or completion involves passing through that uncomfortable region of initiation that turns the most fundamental things we’ve thought and felt all our lives upside down, and makes us see and think in new ways.
Love and Hate are the same intense emotion (perhaps the most intense we can feel!) simply turned to the left, or turned to the right. You can be pushed to the left forever, or to the right forever, or you can take the rare “third road” and seek the power of the whole, where you actually possess the power of both. Then you can love or hate consciously, without breaking your soul on their sharp, dangerous curves, or becoming their fool victim. Such a person loves beyond the ordinary sense of love, and can hate beyond the ordinary sense of hate. They can unite what needs uniting, and break apart what needs breaking apart. This saintly and rare person is both wicked and pure, pure like the Gods.
A cursory reading of the words of many First Nations mystics will reveal that such beliefs as I have presented here regarding Love and Hate- or other dualities, like "good" and "evil"- are not uncommon in the First World. The Minneconja Sioux Wicasa Wakan (holy man) Lame Deer (in his book "Lame Deer, Seeker of Visions") spends a good deal of time discussing how all things, humans and Gods, are "good and bad" at the same time- and how the most sacred powers (even Nature itself) are both of everything. Love and hate, good and bad, in his worldview of wholeness, are both "wakan" or sacred- a teaching carried on by the informants of Walker, as well. This isn't to say that the sacredness of "hate" or "bad" makes it utterly desirable to have around all the time- only that Lame Deer and his people were wise enough to understand a deeper picture for these natural aspects of human existence, and the existence of the world. By having such a deeper view, they engaged the "good" and the "bad" in a different, wiser, more balanced way.
Some people reading all this will be bothered by it. Good! If it lacked the power to disturb, it wouldn't be channeling the core of truth that it is attached to by these insufficient words. Some will read this and immediately begin working out a counter-argument to protect the sanctity of love, and banish the hatefulness of hate. Others will just roll their eyes (they’re probably my favorite team) and others will just nod knowingly.
Such is the way of it. Antonia Gavilan, as a fictional character, may not be a wise enough woman to have found or realized the secret truth to Love and Hate that unites them and transforms them. She may be just a hateful, spiteful bitch who happens to also be a powerful necromancer.
That's fine. Many powerful sorcerers in the past (or present), male or female, may have become hateful or spiteful, just as Christians have, Muslims have, or Secularists have. That's every bit as human as becoming a loving, kind person. If we could just magically wave a wand and banish the hate, the possibility of love would go with it. And then, we'd be zombies without emotions, fully bereft of the vitality of emotional intensity, all without romance or tears or the roar of wrath… and the world's completeness would be impossible.
When you see it this way, and further, when you experience it this way, Love and Hate cease to be shackles, and become allies to you. Both become sources of real strength- for this “enlightened love” and “enlightened hate” far outstrip polarized love and polarized hate. They feel the same, in most ways, but neither are as limited or as dangerously unstable as their polarized twins.
Calling Antonia’s vengeance “unbecoming a witch” is just another polarized reaction, another expression of our habit of loving love and hating hate. It simplifies her, and her arts, and this world and all the people in it into a moronic lump that has no relationship to or bearing on reality. The best thing about Antonia is her humanity, with all its bumps and lumps (and occasional vicious curses.) In the same way that the ancients could relate to the Gods precisely because the Gods were portrayed as occasional victims of infatuation, desire, and anger, Antonia is also reachable by everyone. We understand her. That is its own power.
One More Thing... Why Not Give Up on "Witch"?
Yeah yeah, I always hear people tell me that the word "witch" is a laughing stock word, something that will never be anything other than a diabolical cesspool of christian propaganda, or a new-age joke. So why not change the language? Give it up?
The term "witch" refers to a region of the Western/Indo-European consciousness which, for whatever historical reasons (and there are many) has survived into our modern day loaded with power. Sure, most of that power is tied into sensationalism and smacks of villainy, but there is something standing behind it- the legitimate image of the hedge-crossing, boundary-crossing sorcerer/sorceress who once interacted with the underworld and other more-or-less frightening or forbidden reaches of this reality, for the purposes of power-gaining, divination, and wisdom.
The word "witch" itself drips with a power that nearly everyone feels on the gut level, and it is constellated with many images that themselves maintain an archetypal association with legitimate objective unseen powers. As much as it seems like we should just cut all ties with this word, those who deal with the extraordinary reaches of consciousness in the western context cannot simply do it.
This word alone, almost, has the necessary "hint of darkness" but also the necessary "aura of power" that makes it among the most ambiguous (and therefore really powerful) words. It is precisely the scandal that it causes in most minds that empowers it. And as I said, behind its complexity is something legitimate- not servants of Satan mind you, and certainly not servants of a smiling, shiny caveman mother Goddess, but something far more sublime and deep.
Behind it, deeply, you will find the "Haljoruna", the women (and men) knowledgeable in Hel's mysteries. And they are objective powers that still exist, and still follow all descendants of the Indo-Europeans around, everywhere we go. This is what "witch" really means when you go back to the roots of the language- "rouser of spirits" from the Proto-Germanic word *wikkjaZ, which is another way of saying "Helrunar"- a name for the persons knowledgeable in the mysteries of Hel, or the Underworld. The "Helrunar" are the actual historical figures standing behind the distant personage of the "witch"- men and women able to draw upon the deepest of places for power.
This is the darkest core of our real heritage. And we cannot shake it, and really, we shouldn't want to- some of us are tied to it by Fate, compelled by it. And the world itself needs it, in some secret way at least, or such a thing could not be to begin with. Veritas Vincit!