If you’ve been around the magical block for more than a few weeks or so, you’ve probably run into those kind of people. You know the ones – spouting about a lineage that goes back to ancient greek times, or convinced that their parents parents parents parents ad nauseum practiced the mystical arts – people who call themselves “TRUE witches“.
The idea of “true” witches is that you can only learn witchcraft through a particular sanctioned tradition or lineage. A certain high muckity-muck with six million cords around their waist and a lot of fancy titles must teach you from the bottom up, until they decide you have actually learned enough to be a witch.
In another scenario, there are the hereditary witches. These are the people who believe that unless you were born into a family of witches, you couldn’t possibly be a witch, as if witchcraft could only be born of blood. Only if my mother’s mother’s mother’s mother got burned at a stake for birthin’ babies could you possibly practice magic.
I understand the concept of “sacred mysteries”, and the idea that there are secrets that only witches should know about their practice. Yes, these things may be very much involved in lineage wicca/witchcraft or heriditary practice. Unfortunately, there is a segment of the pagan population that feels that unless you have access to these “mysteries”, you couldn’t possibly be a witch (or wiccan, in some cases).
By that opinion, solitaires and those in covens of ecclectic witches just simply are not witches! No one can teach themselves the practice, and even those who learn from the High Priest/ess of their coven, since their coven isn’t sanctioned by the high muckity-mucks, it just doesn’t count. You’re just not real. Sorry. Please drive through.
I know from my own personal experience – and from discussions with others – that you don’t require fancy titles to feel connected to the energies of the Universe. If that was the case, there wouldn’t be any witches at all, since you have to start somewhere, and that somewhere is outside the circle of a lineage or coven (the exception of course being hereditary witches). Not everyone is “called” to paganism, obviously. But that calling doesn’t need to be confined to a specific group, title or teaching.
Witchcraft is an art. Like any art, it can be taught. Also, like any art, it can be an inherent talent or gift. Neither instance is any better or worse than the other. Some people need teachers, some people don’t. Some find solidarity in a lineage, tradition or coven. Some just want to be left to practice alone, in peace. Why should they be any less authentic to their practices and beliefs than anyone else? They show just as much “real” dedication as anyone else.
In the end, the only ones who can decide whether or not someone’s practice is genuine and authentic is the Deities themselves. It’s the will of the Universe whether or not to accept the offerings of the individual. It’s arrogant of mankind to decide to speak for things we could not possibly fathom.
Be respectful of each other, no matter where your path takes you. Someone else’s path may not be your path, but it doesn’t make it any less right.