Reading Silver Ravenwolf’s Hexcraft

Researching The Long-Lost Friend involves determining its impact on contemporary religious and magical practice, which, in this case, leads us to Silver Ravenwolf’s book HexCraft, in which she describes powwowing practice as it might be employed in the modern pagan community.

To make matters clear, I will not judge Ravenwolf’s attempts to turn a system of magic which many Christian attributes into a pagan practice.  Magic often crosses boundaries between faiths, so its conversion here is hardly surprising or, in the grand scheme of things, cause for criticism.  Also, she is to be commended for seeking out many practitioners and recording their narratives and practices.  Nonetheless, none of this makes HexCraft a good book.

Perhaps the best example is her discussion of “wanna-be” powwowers from the 19th century.  We’ll pass in silence Ravenwolf’s insistence that historians are blatantly inaccurate and that an occultist such as herself has the power to examine what must be at least third-hand accounts of people living over a century ago and make judgments about their sincerity.  No, here’s where it gets interesting:

There were the traditional family lineaged Witches, who mostly called themselves Pow-Wow doctors or artists.  The “W” word  was a no-no.  No one dared use the German word “Hexe,” not unless one was talking about bad things and bad people.  Trailing behind, but ever so vocal, were the self-proclaimed witches.

It seems to me that the chief requirement for being a self-proclaimed anything is to proclaim oneself as having that status.  Ravenwolf does not explain how the self-proclaimed witches managed to proclaim themselves witches without actually telling anyone they were witches.   Sigh.

(Yes, there are other problems in what is described above, but I simply lack the energy to go into them at the moment.  Rest assured that Ravenwolf’s history of powwowing seems highly idiosyncratic and unlike any other I have seen to date.)

Published in: on June 20, 2010 at 2:08 am  Comments (3)  

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. As with most of her books, I imagine that RavenWolf is simply imagining what history would justify her psychological needs, and then projecting that pseudo-history backward. I suppose that there may be something to be said in favor of that process, but I won’t be the one saying it as it seems remarkably unsubtle to me.

  2. It seems to me that she is saying that the “self-proclaimed witches” were distinct from the “Pow-Wow doctors or artists.” I admit I haven’t read the book in question, so my interpretation here is based solely on that quotation that the self-proclaimed witches were trailing behind the “traditional family lineaged Witches” AKA Pow-Wow doctors/artists.

  3. That seems to be what she means, but it’s said in a very questionable and biased way. Frankly, I really wonder if she’d consider Hohman – self-aggrandizing, boastful, admittedly in it for the money (at least partially) – to be a “wannabe witch”…

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