In the Craft, we often encounter the phrase “solitary workings”. For many who have read about or engaged in Witchery, though, this notion might seem something of a contradiction in terms.
Certainly a Witch’s Circle can and often does contain just the one living, breathing human, but if we give any credence to the effectiveness of invocations, the Circle is also a meeting place for an array of less readily perceived beings, from elementals and other well-intentioned spirits to divinities of varying degrees of seniority and clout. If the Witch wanted solitude, he or she might just as well have trotted off to a football grand final.
Whether this concept rings true to us depends on how we view the matter of invisible friends and their propensity for accepting invitations. Even in the most formalized religions, beliefs about this vary, and so when looking at the amorphous mass of Witches and Pagans (collectively speaking), we encounter a spectacularly broad range of opinions.
At one end of the theological spectrum, we have the literalists, who accept the existence of their unseen invitees as confidently as they do other phenomena undetectable to the human eye due to size (sub-molecular particles, for instance) or the limitations of our optical sensory receptors (as in the case of x-rays). Some literalists believe that the range of visual perception is broader in the case of gifted individuals and may be extended through intention.
Thus, some may be born with the capacity to see ghosts, faeries or related phenomena such as auras, while others may acquire this skill. To others, such expanded perception is considered to be more a matter of mentally translating information perceived through other senses into the “language” of the visible (or any of the other senses).
At the other extreme is subjectivism. This can express itself in the belief that all entities and occurrences, the reality of which wouldn’t get a materialist’s seal of approval, are purely constructs of our minds. Alternatively, it may describe the broader notion that objective reality is unknowable since all natural phenomena must be filtered through our limited perceptions (in which case, even the materialists would be barking not so much up the wrong tree as one which may very well not actually exist).
This thinking quickly gets us snookered by the “no one can possibly know anything” argument, which makes all subsequent discussion a bit pointless, and so many inclined to subjectivism get off before that stop and stick with the opinion that the material is the “really truly real” and the not-demonstrably-material isn’t.
That in turn leaves the door open for physicists to validate things of matters such as telepathy, hauntings and Uri Geller’s wilting cutlery, and also allows that what goes on in the mind can be as significant as what goes on in the body. Certainly, mental illness (which may be, as Kurt Vonnegut insisted in his 1973 novel Breakfast of Champions, merely the result of “bad chemicals”) has the potential to be quite as dangerous as physical illness.
This form of subjectivism is often thought of as Jungian, but Jung would be the first to dispute that usage. “This is certainly not to say that what we call the unconscious is identical with God or is set up in his place,” he stated in The Undiscovered Self [American Library, 1959]. “It is the medium from which the religious experience seems to flow.” For “God” in this context, we can read the entire world of the allegedly supernatural, from the holy to the downright spooky. The “G” Word, however, deftly steers us towards a good starting place for our investigation of the Wiccan’s invisible friends: the Goddess and the God of the Witches.