A Portuguese translation of Apocalyptic Witchcraft will soon be available from Penumbra Livros, a Brazilian publisher who have previously translated works by Kenneth Grant and Peter J. Carroll. Nicholaj de Mattos Frisvold (whose Craft of the Untamed is also on their catalogue) has kindly written a preface to the work which we would like to share with you in English.
When the Portuguese edition is available it will be listed here: http://www.penumbralivros.com.br/nossos-livros/
Much has been written about witchcraft, its practices and beliefs, its history and the witchcraft trials. The sheer amount of literature provides a continuous red thread of the witch as malefica and venefici – and it is this that became the icon of the witch proper. The witch is a votary of Circe and Medea, a child of Cain and it is this icon of the witch as ‘other,’ as opposer, as danger, that Peter Grey is painting for us against the backdrop of modernity.
Peter states that the witch is what we find at the end of a pointed finger, and at the end of the pointed finger we find the unruly and the rebellious bound by the otherworldly, the scapegoat and the dangerous. Hence ‘witchcraft is the work of the enemy. Witchcraft is the sex that other people have, witchcraft the drug other people take, witchcraft is the rite other people perform.’ And in truth witchcraft can be defined by ‘the other,’ and as time passes and civilizations and cultures reach new levels of degeneration, misery and alienation from core, nature and soul ‘the same’ becomes gradually more and more like concrete, steel and glass objecting nature in favour of fashion, greed and illusory power over the temporal.
The decay of society stands out in Apocalyptic Witchcraft as a canvas that makes the animus and anima of the witch visible and threatening, because the witch is the opposer, it is the resistance, it is protest done in acts of autonomous self-celebration where ‘the other’ is claimed as both guardian angel and a shade of threat and comfort. It is in this field we find the desire for freedom and in this a rejection of the imposed dictum that we need to be sheep. Instead we realise we are goats lusting for the blood running wildly from bleeding stars that fell to Earth and dress the cloak of the devil. As Peter writes: ‘The Devil as the mask of wild nature and the Goddess, giving us the choice to control our bodies, minds and destiny is at the core of what a witch is.’
Apocalyptic Witchcraft is a war manifesto aiming towards sowing a consciousness that enables the flame to act against oppression, any kind of oppression, it be social, political, psychological or what a given culture has judged to be ‘good manners’ in favour of truth. Truthfulness to one self, to one’s ambitions, to one’s own path and in this we can truly become makers of our own Fate. There is a political agenda in Peter’s book, he is not solely a terrible force for the oppressors, he is also a liberator of those chained by the oppressors, they be real, imaginative, of faith or of society as he call upon the Free Will to recognize the truth of Self in unique ways. We speak of anarchy, but there is a lineage to this anarchy, we are speaking of Thoreau, Tolkien Tolstoy and Chomsky that saw what Peter is seeing and in this saw a similar need, that a return to the laws of nature was necessary. For Peter the realisation of the importance of this return turns into an insistence on rewilding witchcraft and this is only done by aware and willing participation as ‘the other’ in contemporary civilization, this because ‘the Devil is not the hidden hand of history, but has been formed by the glove it wears,’ hence ‘the other’ is in some Foucauldian nightmare always defined by ‘the sameness’ or what we is usually known as ‘the majority.’
This socio-political dimension is important and a factor that often escapes those believing they are doing witchcraft, those who write about it and those who actually do it, that the word ‘witch’ was since the dawn of time defined the scapegoat, the grains of sand in a well-oiled social machinery that made it fail and become imperfect, and of course, instead of turning our eyes within, the search for the scapegoat begins without, and ‘the witch’ has always been the target, willing or unwilling to take the blame in the name of ‘otherness.’ In this respect Peter has taken the very icon of the witch and made him or her tangible and recognisable in our contemporary society. Yet it is not enough to be a rebel, whore or a drug fiend to earn the dignified accusative of a scapegoat, of something other, something that threatens norms and order or society. It takes something else, something much more than just being in opposition, because witchcraft is in the blood, it is a special breed, it is about the Cains and the Liliths of the world, whether they know it or not. As Peter writes: ‘We do not need to begin with an exterior cult if we can diligently apply the basic exercises, and in doing so nurture the flowering of our own gifts. If we do not have the will to do so, seeking it outside will not remedy this.’
And I think it truly lies here, the entire secret of the witches’ blood and brood, you need to recognise this in earnest and be truthful about who you are, because no one can give what they don’t have and the blood of the witch is only ignited, like a match put to gasoline because it is already there.
If we look at all publications discussing witchcraft we find an enormous array of possible interpretations. The historical material relegated to ‘the other’ under the guise of ‘the witch’ is massive and can at times be so confusing that we end up with something like ‘witchcraft religions’ a synthesis of the other and the same. It is proper to pause and reflect on what happens when the same and the other merges. As we contemplate we realise we will have a temporary expansion heralding its extinction, because the other will always affirm the status quo and vice-versa. Society has always been the glove that gives shape to the Devil and the Devil has always been there marking the boundaries of how far is too far, because we can never get more far away from mediocrity that what blazes in ‘the otherness,’ as affirmation and challenge to what is.
Witchcraft was always about this, it was always about communion with the spirits of nature and home. It was always about understanding, and grows wise in adapting or perpetuating. I have always considered witchcraft to be ‘peasant craft’ in the sense that witchcraft is occupied with earth, with the woods, with the waterfalls, the farm and the family and all that comes together in this, it be cows, goats, woodpeckers or snakes. Witches were also known to be ‘cunning ones’ or ‘wise ones,’ people who knew a bit more than what they should know and even if witchcraft has its secrets and mysteries as an art of understanding the world around your homestead it takes a witch to recognise it. The fact that there are actually genuine strains of witchcraft passed down as legacy through families can be frustrating, because of the silence, taboo and restrictions of sharing outside blood and family that solely aim towards a preservation should not be a hindrance for recognition of who you are. Peter writes: ‘Given that the techniques of witchcraft are either simple tricks, or incommunicable to those who do not already understand the secret, it is inevitable that a literature would grow around it with the voracity of thorns, however well-meaning the sowers were, has nonetheless created an invasive barricade of spines.’ And his solution lies in: ‘I cut this down, I harvest these thorns, I make this the haft of my shod stang and striking the earth clearly proclaiming my intent.’ In this he gives further voice to the third paragraph in his manifesto that states:
Witchcraft is our intimate connection to the web of life
And who can disagree with such statement? Because in this sentence we find the heart of the craft of the witch. To be intimate with the web of life means to be a friend of your fears. It means to be connected to the sameness as an opposer to those who oppose the otherness, and allow the fountain of deep understanding to flow as you forge your own Fate. Even what is written in stone can erode in the waters of time, and the waters of time will always call upon the need fire of the witch to make it known.
The craft of the witch is about a practice and a set of rites that are meaningful and functional, that serves and ends through an understanding of why what is done is done. The witch is a pragmatist, a time traveller, a rider of beasts and wild horses, because the witch prefers her tiger and boar untamed and wild, and seeks the communion that is beyond appearance, the soul of the world, the naked flesh of God and his consort, the Earth.
Witchcraft is not bound in religion and priesthoods; it is a matriarchy, because the earth we step on is Her crowned by a myriad of stars, which is why Peter’s manifesto says in section 27: ‘The practice of witchcraft is one of revolution and of the power of woman.’
And this is a truth a million times true.
For Peter, Earth is crowned by Algol with the Cains and Liliths of the world securing otherness in constant provocative temptation with the fear ridden sameness, because witchcraft is sexy, it is beautiful and it is dangerous. If witchcraft has no fangs, no devil, no danger or no sex it is not witchcraft, it is conformity and sameness, it is a religion like any other…
Apocalyptic Witchcraft takes the temperament of the witch in our day and time. It is a book about how the witch comes to power in any time and age and in this how we can recognise and understand what we find at the end of the pointed finger as something meaningful for the other. Doing this Apocalyptic Witchcraft ultimately calls into question our own reality and the poetry our life with all its truths and lies created in a world of decay and power calling not upon a return, but to rewild what was always wild and untamed.
Nicholaj de Mattos Frisvold