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© Storm Genevieve Black 2015. All Rights Reserved

First published in Connect Magazine August/September 2016

Balance is something we understand very well in Traditional Witchcraft. We do not believe that darkness is negative any more than we believe light is purer than the driven snow. We understand that to become 'enlightened' is to accept that darkness not only exists within each of us but actually plays a prevalent part in our whole existence. That being said we also understand that without light we could not grow into the 'enlightened beings' we hope to become either. Take for example the course of the day. It begins for all of us, Witches included, at midnight in the darkness. It runs through the growing warmth and light of the morning towards midday. Before the sun begins to fade into the darkness of the night and we start the whole process all over again. We do the same as mammals through the course of our lives. Although living through many days, we begin our lives in a period of gestation nestling in the darkness of the womb, growing big and strong enough to venture out into the light of the world at birth. As we continue growing through childhood we are living out our lifetimes morning, at adulthood we have reached the height of the day, and then in our evening years we prepare to be returned back to the darkness. This life cycle is the same for all mammals.

The wheel of the year is another example that follows a similar cycle. In the southern hemisphere the beginning of the year for our craft falls at Samhain on the 1st May. Samhain literally translates to summers end. This is the beginning of the dark half of the year. The time when there is no growth left and everything is preparing to hibernate for the winter. Here in the tropics it is usually a welcome break from the extreme heat of the summer, although this year has seen a particularly harsh and unseasonably wet winter. The winter months themselves reach from June through August, and this is truly a time of darkness. At the South pole the sun only shines for 6 months of the year. I know that is hard to comprehend in the tropics when the length of the days between summer and winter only varies by an hour or less. Nevertheless it is true. We can therefore understand that this time of darkness is important in the balance of life, and that during this time we can turn our attentions to indoor activities, study and reading, and making plans for what we will do in the spring and summer. Then at the start of the light half of the year in November as the spring returns we can begin carrying out all of the plans we made in the autumn and winter. For this is a time to begin outdoor activities again, when the crops can be planted and we can tend the new growth of all of our ideas.

This brings us neatly to the subject of balance in spells. While spells do range from blessings to curses, or vice-versa, all are just spells and it very often depends on the viewpoint of the caster and the recipient as to which is which. The truth is magic does not come in black and white. It is more like electricity, colourless and unseen but with the capacity to power both incubator and electric chair. Yet we do not try to differentiate electricity as black or white. We understand the balance required to use it safely, and to our benefit. Often when asked if I am a black or a white witch I choose to smile and tell people that I am green and grey. Those who begin to back away from me as a result of my answer are simply not ready to learn what it actually means.

This brings us finally to the balance between the masculine and the feminine. I have in the past met many people who believe that Witchcraft is a purely female religion. “Men can't be witches, can they?” Actually the roots of our Traditional craft were being practised in the Dark Ages, so named because of the lack of written record from the time. However we know that there were both men and women practising witchcraft at the end of the 6th century CE when the Christian scribes first ventured out of Mercia to begin their record keeping. We know that many of the facts that were translated and recorded have been distorted over the centuries, but there are still a few surviving texts from this early period of scripture that give an infinite knowledge to those of us who know how to find it. This male and female balance is evident in the elements we work with, and our deities as well. Of the four elements Air and Fire are the masculine while Earth and Water are the feminine. It has been said that this is because men are full of hot air while women are the emotional home-makers, but on this subject I couldn't possibly comment. It is a common misconception that witches are godless folk. We have been called Heathens for centuries. We do however believe in many Gods. The Gods each of us work with are the masculine counterpart of the feminine Goddess. For all must remain in balance, and without one there is no other.