Saturday, January 22, 2011

About Being a Witch

About being a Witch, let me clear everyone's mind.  I know some readers may still be stuck in the dark ages thinking that Witches are inherently evil and all that.

The truth of the matter is for you to now learn by reading these next few paragraphs.


A Witch, in a religious context, is a person who embraces and professes a spiritual tradition that utilises Magick as a primary practice.  Magick essentialy means energy manipulation.

Whether Celtic, Welsh, Gaulish, Norsk, Romanian, American, Greek, Roman, Asian, or otherwise, the general English term is Witch.  The address is applicable to both men and women.  Sorcerer, and Warlock are masculine terms, while Sorceress and Enchantress are gender-exclusive to women.

These days, the term Wizard is not very widely used anymore because of fictional and fantastic connotations--even if it is, in every sense, valid.

There are many other terms specific to each tradition.  I'm going to orient you on ones specific to traditional Celtic Witchcraft and an indigenous tradition from Bohol called Binol-anong Baylan.

For the Celtic tradition, specifically Irish, from County Westmeath, the terms are all gender-dependent.  An ordinary Sorceress is called a Cailleach, while an ordinary Sorcerer is called an Asarlai.  A High Priestess or a female Druid is called a Bandraoi, while a Priest or male Druid is called a Draoi.

Take note that the word Cailleach has a colloquially derogatory connotation for Irish people who don't practice Magick -- the same way the word Witch is, for people who don't understand.

For the Binol-anong Baylan tradition, the terms are a bit more complicated.  The word for a non-adept practitioner, regardless of gender, is Mananambal, a term which has been presently relegated to mean medicine man/woman.  But ask someone who actually practices antient Baylan and you may get that word or the word Mamamarang.  This latter word is now presently relegated to mean an evil Witch.  Barang, a northern Cebuano-Visayan term for Baylan was understood by invading Spanish friars to mean something evil because, well, they were Roman Catholics during the period of the inquisition who thought anything that wasn't part of their belief system was evil.  Does this sound familiar?  Other than that, Witches also did unspeakable things to them to try to drive them away.

A more advanced Baylan practitioner would be the hermit low Priestess/Priest called Tumanan.  He/She is more advanced than an ordinary Mananambal/Mamamarang and lives his/her life in solitude, isolated from community while perfecting the practices and meditating.

As for the high Priestess, the term is Babaylan.  It should be noted that all Babaylan in the various Baylan traditions of the Visayas Islands were women until the late 1700's during the tradition revival and collective rise of the resistant forces -- over a century after matriarchy was forcefully abolished by the Spanish.  During the time of the matriarchy, however, a male counterpart in the Bohol tradition was the Biki`.  They were sometimes called high Priests, but they were still obliged to bow down to the Babaylan.  They constituted a large number of men who assumed the title Babaylan after the abolition of the matriarchy.  Contrary to what most people believe, the assumption of the title was not done in defiance.  It was done out of need because they knew that the only way they would get the whole land's full attention was if they bore the title.

Men from the Visayas who are historically named Babaylan before the 1700's were not genuine Babaylan, but merely lower ranking practitioners dubbed with such a title by historians.  This statement, however, excludes the Luzon traditions as they are known to have had a few male Babaylan throughout pre-Hispanic history.

Here's a fun fact:  Up to the 16th century, in the Visayan Baylan traditions, while mostly men led the politics and military activities during the same time the matriarchy was happening, the tribal matriarchs had the final word.

A little bit of history for you:  In the Island of Bohol, the high Priestess during the onset of the Spanish conquest in 1521 was Babaylang Karyapa.  Twelve years before that time, however, in 1509, she had already foretold the destruction of the Baylan tradition and of the ways of the people of Bohol by a foreign force.  It was Datu Sikatuna's defiance of her advice against befriending the Spanish conquistador, Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, that led to the proliferation of the invasion and mass coercive conversion throughout the island.  Thus, her vision came true.

Modernised Traditions

The 20th century Neo-Pagan religion called Wicca is a modern derivative/combination of the antient European pagan traditions.  The term Wicca (a word which means a male Witch in Old English), for them, is the name of the religion whose practitioners are called Wiccans.  It is emphasised as a positive spiritual craft that openly shuns evil.


There are Magickal traditions that do not recognise a supreme being and only put faith in the intermediary gods and goddesses that their pantheons follow.  Our two examples, however, both do.

Antient Celtic Witchcraft recognises and Unnamed Divine Spirit, while Binol-anong Baylan tradition names the Absolute Being, Bathala`.  This is a very essential similarity between the two traditions.

This being cannot be prayed to -- only recognised.  This being is without gender and form, yet it is the source of everything in existence.  Thus, it is also of all genders and all forms.  This being lives at the centre of our spirits, yet our spirits are entirely part of it.  This being is the ultimate cause, thus it is also present in every consequence.  This being is everything itself, and likewise nothingness itself.  This being is acknowledged as present in every single being and place and is recognised as neutral.  This being is perfect.

Basic Principle

The only worded principle in our two examples of traditional Witchcraft is The Law of Return (which, in other religions, is called The Golden Rule or The Law of Karma).

   The Law of Return :
      Gàidhlig: "An rud a chuireann tú amach, tiocfaidh sé chugat ar ais."
      Old English: "What ye send forth comes back to thee."
      Bisaya: "Unsa'y ihatag mo, mobalik kanimo."

This means whatever energy you put out into the world will be returned to you.


In Magickal practice, prayers are called spells.  There are two kinds: blessings and hexes.  The former is self-explaining and obviously positive, while the latter needs to be clarified a little.  A hex is, most often, negative.  However, if it is done to put a subject in a formidable predicament for the purpose of teaching a lesson, then it may still be considered a hex even though it isn't evil.  In which cases, Witches would call them blessings in disguise.

Spells generally require only energy emanating from the self.  However, there are cases that call for the help of intermediaries.


Intermediaries are beings whom some traditions like to call lesser gods and goddesses.  They are not nature itself, but are nature-based and nature-dwelling, leading to the colloquial term nature-spirits.  Nature itself is neutral and therefore exempt from being labelled good or evil.  These intermediaries are, however, not exempt.  Thus, it is understood that there are good forces and there are evil forces.

Another great similarity between our two examples is the fact that the deities are not anthropomorphic, only named.  While most Celtic traditions have their gods and goddesses illustrated and given human forms -- even elaborate life stories -- the tradition of County Westmeath refused to adopt this.

During the earlier days, as in before the Irish Iron age (before 1 C.E.), all of Great Britain and Ireland (Celts, Welsh, and Gauls) sought aid directly from nature spirits.  Although named, these spirits did not have human images.  It wasn't until the entry of Greco-Roman influence into their cultures that they began giving their deities human forms and mythical stories.

On the other hand, the Philippine Baylan tradition, seen as a whole, had already largely adopted anthropomorphism long before the Spanish came.  The influence of other Asian religions led to nearly all deities being given humanoid forms, thus the replacement of the unnamed and formless nature dwellers with the anthropomorphic Diwata (derived from the Hindu term p. Devata or s. Deva, meaning guardian spirits, which, ironically, have a formless origin).

There is nothing inherently wrong with it, except for the development of human misinterpretation over the course of time, which then led to the creation of supposed origin stories for the deities and the rise of idolatry.  Most Baylan traditions have even given the Supreme Being a life story of its own, leading to the destruction of the concept of absolutism, which it was originally supposed to have.

Bohol's Babaylan, however, strongly rejected the growing national trend of anthropomorphism.  Thus, while some spirits have names, the authentic Binol-anong Baylan tradition never gave them stories and faces.

The Concept of Duality and Certain Beliefs

Celtic Witchcraft and Baylan, being very similar, are not exclusively emphasised as benevolent, unlike the Neo-Pagan Wicca.  It is given as a choice to every practitioner whether he/she chooses to do good or evil, in acknowledgement of the fact that whatever you do will inescapably happen to you in return, no matter how much you try to compensate.  Your positive deeds will be returned as blessings, but you still will not be able to escape your negative debt.  There is no principle of cancellation.  And, yes, reincarnation is held belief in.

Although there is no benevolent emphasis, it is understood in the way the saying is delivered that one should use his/her powers for good.  Who wants bad things happening to them, anyhow? The difference is that there is no dictation to do good or otherwise.  It is ultimately a matter of personal choice and exercise of freedom.

On the other hand, it is emphasised as a Witch's duty to protect his/her family.


What are called "curses," are fruits of passionate negative human emotions which are unleashed by an angry person.  One does not need to be a Witch in order to make a curse.  However, Witches are more accustomed to releasing their own energies when doing things, so it generally means that the effects of their curses are more potent and more destructive than that of most people.

.     .     .     .     .

More things to learn:

            - The greeting "Blessed be," is a Neo-Pagan derivative from the old Irish parting blessings that say, "Bheannacht De ort," which means "May the gods bless you," and "Mo Bheannacht ort," which means "My blessings on you."  The Binol-anong Baylan equivalent is the age-old greeting that says, "Pagabuwahan ka," meaning "Blessings on you," which has presently been Christianised and changed into "Pagabuwahan ka sa Diyos" or "Pagabuwahan ka ni Kristo."  Diyos means "the Lord," while Kristo means "Christ."

            - The word Magick, spelled with CK is the Old English spelling of magic.  It is used by practitioners to distinguish the antiquity of the tradition.  The M is always capitalised to denote its use in the context of religion.

            - The word Witch is always began with capitalised W when used to refer to a person or a group of people who practise a religion based on Magick.  In another religion's context, for instance, what is appropriate is to refer to a practitioner of Buddhism as a "Buddhist," rather than a "buddhist."

            - The Pentacle (five-pointed star/pentagram in a circle), according to the County Westmeath Celtic Tradition, represents the union of the five elements (Earth, Air, Fire, Water, Soul matter/Æther) with our own Spirit (centre) and the Absolute Being (circle).

            - Most Witches who are not practitioners of any denomination of Neo-Paganism generally do not appreciate being called Wiccans, especially if they practice antient traditional Witchcraft like Celtic Witchcraft or Baylan.  It is because Wicca is a new-era pagan movement and a lot of people like to hold on to the pride of being antient Witches.

            - Like in all religions many Witches are good.  Likewise, many are also not.  There are definitely evil Witches, but Witchcraft itself is NOT evil.  It is neutral.  I already mentioned this.

            - Talking about the Witch trials and the inquisition should be done with caution as it is a sensitive topic for most Witches who come from Traditional backgrounds.  Their ancestors may have been victims.  Most will not turn negative, but some will certainly get hurt.

            - Some Witches have familiars, or brother/sister spirits.  They are not servants or slaves; they share a special bond with the Witch.  Thus, the Witch and the familiar protect each other.  They usually inhabit small and agile animals.  In the Baylan tradition, they are called sigbin.

            - The way media programs such as Harry PotterCharmed, and Sabrina portray magic are totally UNREALISTIC!  They have good values to teach people; they have good poetic justice themes; and they are good for entertainment purposes, but real magick just doesn't work like that.

            - Don't be afraid to ask questions.  Witches do not bite!