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Radical Bones and Traditional Flesh

(I have a couple of large things in my head and I’m going to write out chunks of them in the hopes of getting them more or less bite-sized.)

My current movement history project has been trying to map the history of the modern Craft, more or less – which lines have connections where, not quite down to the who initiated whom when level, but where things emerged and from which angles.

And one of the things about that is that it’s radicalising, for me. Because getting deep down into the bones of it, of the who knew whom, of the whose influence is where, it’s getting into one of the old school things that witchcraft has always been about: it’s about looking for a lever, when none of the levers that come to hand are accessible. Magic comes in two basic flavors: the explorations of the educated, and the bones of the disenfranchised.

Modern Craft has both of those flavors mixed into it, coming in from different angles. But I keep finding bones. Poor bones. Women’s bones. Bones claimed to be stolen from Romani, or from indigenous peoples. Bones taken from POC. And queer bones. All these bones, trying to pry open a space in the world where people can fit.

These are radical bones. Bones are levers, when nothing else looks like it will wedge something apart.

Bones look for power. Leverage. And that’s Craft.

It surprises me how comfortable I am with this feeling, with revolution in my bones. Perhaps it shouldn’t surprise me – I raised myself morally on “Because All Men Are Brothers” and “We Shall Overcome” and “Blowin’ in the Wind“, after all.

But I am, always have been, fundamentally conservative. I want traditions, I want stability, I want things to settle into their patterns, secure and sound. I want things to be ordered and in their place. I want to trust people to mean what they say, sometimes to the point of a naiveté that lashes into paranoia when I realise that someone is trying to game the system in some way.

Some people, when they realise that traditions are broken, want to throw it all away, build something new, and I distrust the new. I always want to say, “This is still good, it just needs to be fixed. This tradition works, let’s see how we can tinker with it to let everyone who wants it come in.” My arguments for things, the aesthetic that comes to me, is so often in a conservative mode, and that sets me apart from so many people who call themselves conservative, enough that I wonder if my conservatism is secretly radical, if it’s a weird lie that “conservative” doesn’t mean that thing about protecting, preserving, maintaining. It’s a code for something else.

(I kind of hate codes for something else.)

It took me a long, long time to think that ‘witch’ was a word I could even use. To bring myself into the Craft. Even when I was studying it, even when I was pursuing it actively, I wasn’t sure I wanted it, wanted that. I wasn’t sure I wanted to be radical.

But I look at the world and see the biggest threat to traditions is not the people who want to be included in them, but the people who say, “There’s no place for people like me here, I’m going to have to tear it down and build something else to have something worthwhile for myself and my people.” And there’s a place to tear things down, gods know.

And there’s a place to lever it open with my bones and say, “No, there’s space for me, too. There’s space for my people, my friends, my kin.”

It’s an interesting balance, between the witch and the reconstructionist.

I’m kind of starting to like it.

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