Earlier in the week I had a very interesting conversation during which a rather bold statement was made. A long-practicing witch told me she was an avowed skeptic. She went on to say she required tangible evidence before she believed in anything. Now, this was a bit of a surprise to me. I’ve done magick with her, seen her energy and power manifest. How could this person be a skeptic? How do you produce such magick and still be such a skeptic. But that statement got me to thinking. Does skepticism belong in Witchcraft? Is it a good thing or a hindrance?
Let’s talk definitions (here is that Virgo aspect asserting itself). A skeptic, according to the Mirriam-Webster dictionary, is a person who questions or doubts something (such as a claim or statement). It can also mean a person who often questions or doubts things. In turn the word skepticism is defined as an attitude of doubt or a disposition to incredulity either in general or toward a particular object. It may also be defined as the method of suspended judgment, systematic doubt, or criticism characteristic of skeptics. If we fully understand the definition of the word, does skepticism belong in witchcraft? Or is skepticism an impediment to magick itself?
Personally, I have a difficult time reconciling a magickal practitioner with a skeptic. Yes, this is my own issue and I am working through it. But the more I have thought about it the more important it can be to go into witchcraft and the magickal arts with a bit (and I emphasize a bit) of skepticism. Here is why:
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Benefits of Skepticism
- Being skeptical is a good safety mechanism. It allows us to think before we move into any situation that doesn’t seem “right”.
- Skepticism may be a defense mechanism of an earlier trauma. As such, we may begin to understand and help heal – through magickal and mundane means – an individual whose skepticism comes from such a wound.
- Having a skeptical attitude may make a practitioner work harder at learning the mechanics of magick. The skeptic wants to “know” the ins and outs before they proceed.
- Once a skeptic has determined that something is true and correct, they are all in. And good at it! They’ve perfected needed skills in their pursuit of truth. Now that they understand and know all of its ins and outs, they shine and excel.
When Does Skepticism Become Detrimental?
While skepticism can be beneficial to your magickal practice, as illustrated above, it can also be detrimental. It becomes a detriment when:
- It stops you from fulling immersing yourself in ritual: If you are constantly being skeptical about the proceedings then you cannot experience what is happening around you.
- Connection to the energy around you stalls: When you are doubting the existence of a Universal energy or force, you are missing one of the key points of magick -belief in the connectedness in us all. There is something that unites us – energy, deity, whatever you may call it – and the “knowing” of that improves our magick ten fold.
- You begin to doubt yourself and your experiences: When you are in a constant state of skepticism you begin to question and doubt some of the experiences you may be having. Did deity truly speak to you or are you going crazy? Did I really see that energy in my hands or do I need my eyes checked?
- Progression in the Craft stalls and fizzles out: Keeping a mindset of skepticism and distrust may eventually cause your Craft to wither away. Moving forward may become difficult if you don’t allow yourself to just experience what is happening without analyzing each and every portion of it for motive, means, or reality.
Allowing Skepticism To Take The Backseat
How do we move forward in our Craft if we are avowed skeptics? My suggestion would be to have your skepticism take a backseat once in a while. Go into that ritual with an open mind and no preconceived notions of what is or isn’t real. Let yourself relax your vigilance with people you know and trust -then work magick with feeling and heart, not doubt. Possibly make an agreement with yourself to just experience the magick around you. Then, when you begin to feel skeptical again, allow yourself a breath, relax into the moment, and let things just flow.
I’m not saying that this is going to happen overnight. It took years, maybe a lifetime, to be skeptical. Perhaps there is good reason to embrace the skeptic in you – trauma, past mistakes, and pain to name a few. But releasing our skepticism as Witches and Magickal Practitioners will allow us to learn, grow, and experience some pretty amazing things. Things we never would if we kept our skeptical attitudes wrapped around us like the shields they can be. There is so much to be discovered and awed by when we remove the chains of the skeptic and allow ourselves to see with our hearts and souls instead of just our eyes.
But you don’t have to do this alone. You will have your friends, coven mates, and magickal family with you. We will be there by your side to help you rediscover the faith in yourself and in others that you have submerged in distrust. Together we will learn to understand when skepticism is healthy and helpful, and when it blocks our way to bigger and better things.
Understanding the Skeptic
Does skepticism belong in witchcraft? At times, yes it does. At others, hell no. But understanding when and where it is appropriate will strengthen all of us and our magicks. Next time you are tempted to contradict or correct a skeptic, think about the context. Is it coming from a place of fear, pain or apprehension? Or is it from a place of misunderstanding and inexperience. Remember that skepticism does have its place – not only in magick but in our mundane lives as well. But choosing skepticism to avoid an experience or learning something new just doesn’t mesh with magick and witchcraft. The individual may have to make a choice – continue to be a skeptic or leave the Craft.
It is my hope that this blog has shed some light on what can be a very touchy subject. I know that writing it has definitely illuminated a chasm of deeper understanding in me. May this have illuminated you as well.