On Modern Witchcraft
I got a headache today. I considered taking an aspirin but knew it probably wouldn't do any good, as the source of the problem was the smell of sour gasoline I'd managed to get on my clothes while testing the flow rate on some fuel dispensing hoses returned from a customer of the rubber manufacturer I work for. However, it dawned on me that never once did I consider boiling up some willow bark tea, as did countless ancestors. In fact, to this day I've never tasted the stuff. I have nothing against willow bark, and realize its effectiveness when used properly, but frankly go for the over the counter stuff every time. Does this make me "less of a Witch"? I think not. Just because we abandon some of the traditional cures in favor of prepackaged modern remedies compounded in laboratories to exacting tolerances doesn't make us any less a Witch. It makes us smart.
Think about it: Traditional Witches, "Granny Doctors", healers or what have you, were curing diseases by abandoning old ways of doing things in favor of those that worked better long before we were born. If not for this sort of innovative thinking we might still be treating disease by bleeding the afflicted with leeches. (Actually, this is still done to some degree. I read an article some while back that said scientists had found that the same anti clotting agent secreted by leeches to ensure an uninterrupted meal was useful in breaking up blood clots in certain stroke or heart attack patients or some such as that, so never say "never". But I digress.) The fact remains that modern medicine has come a long way and perhaps some of the "old ways", although worthy of learning and remembering in times of necessity, may not be the best remedy for everyday use. I've used plenty of herbal and natural remedies (See "Herbal Medicine") but usually this was because I didn't have something better lying around the house.
Apart from medicine, many hard-core traditionalists (or more often, newbies) blanch at the thought of electric lights present during ritual, use of anything other than a cast iron 3 legged pot-bellied cauldron, or wearing a machine sewn robe. Crap. Now listen carefully: The reason our forebears used candles, cast iron and hand stitched was because Edison, Brearley and Howe weren't freakin' born yet! Don't get me wrong on this; candles cast a warmer light and provide a focus for energy, nothing cooks up a pot of stew better than a cauldron simmering by the fire, and hand sewing has a unique rhythm of its own conducive to meditation, and all three have many other uses, mundane and magickal. The point is, these things are tools, or means to an end, and the form is not important. The real magick comes from within.
So if you're beginning in the Craft and don't yet have that hand forged athame with the deer hoof handle or a leather-bound blank book to begin writing your personal Book of Shadows, rest assured it just doesn't matter. What's important is what is in your heart and the way you live your life. That being said, I think I'll go take an aspirin now. Amberflame tells me willow bark tea tastes pretty wretched, anyway.