Sunday, 16 December 2012
Craft of All Crafts
Plato talked of what he called the World of the Forms. Unlike Aristotle, who would say a chair (or whatever item you choose) is called a chair and is recognizable as a chair because it is the essence of chairness, that it's very existence makes it what it is, Plato would say we recognize it as a chair because it is modeled after the ideal chair in the World of the Forms. We recognize it as a chair based recognizing it for something following the plan for what a chair should be.
Both these viewpoints have merit, and both can be seen as simultaneously true if you can grasp paradox. Aristotle's chair is a very real, physical chair, concrete and tangible. Plato's chair is a reflection, an image, an illusion you could say. Seen together, you get the model of most esoteric understandings of the universe, from the Hindu Maya, the Dream, to the Taoist Yin and Yang out of Tao and Te, from the Kabbalist upper and lower heavens and earths, and the Sepherot and Qippot, to the Celtic world and otherworld.
These themes run strong in many forms of traditional witchcraft, but especially in Grimr. While some take on only Plato's view, seeing the material world as an illusion to be rejected, others take on Aristotle's view, seeing the otherworld as within us, to teach us about the outer world which is the only reality. Grimr holds Plato's and Aristotle's views in paradox. In some ways, the material world is an illusion, a reflection of worlds beyond, seen through a mirror darkly. In other ways, the material is very real, and any rejection of it is embracing illusion and moving away from Truth. For the separation of the worlds is the true illusion, and the Threads stretch through all worlds and the Tree and River and Web reach in both directions.
Looking at Plato's view more closely, specifically in the context of what is often called the Craft, we see a pattern take form. It is significant that it almost seems each medieval craft had mystic and esoteric teachings and practice as part of their guilds and societies.
We see, most significantly and surviving, the Freemasons. There was a time it was made up of actual stone masons performing their trade, though it's more often symbolic and esoteric masonry today. The esoteric secrets and understandings are crouched in stone mason terminology and techniques, and the legends and myths are set in this context.
Another often commented on example is the Horsemen's Word, primarily in Scotland, which was strong and thriving from all evidence around the time of the turn of the 1900s, but has since died out. There are some surviving accounts and descriptions pointing to an esoteric tradition of Cainite nature focused around horses and their training and care.
Smiths were thought to be magical in their craft, turning raw metal into weapons and tools and other useful forms. It's no coincidence that many cultures had smithing gods and goddesses. Smiths were treated with awe ranging from respect to fear. There's some evidence of lore passed down master to apprentice in at least some cases that went beyond just the practical elements of their craft.
Weavers have always been associated with Fate, most cultures having weaver and weaving gods and goddesses who were usually tied to Fate or Destiny in some way. In most of the Middles Ages, and also outside that era depending on location, weaving was a male profession. Weavers seemed to have had a similar awe as smiths in many places, transforming plants into cloth and clothes, something people depended on as much as what the smith created. But the respect seems less, and the fear closer to distrust. In many areas, weavers were trusted about as much as gypsies, in other words not much. There seems to have also been esoteric lore related to weaving passed down.
You see similar things with potters, with sailors, with tinkers. Each skilled profession, each group that can be called a craft, seems to have had their lore and myth and secrets, specific to their craft. There's a saying in Hawaii, 'a'ohe pau ka 'ike i ia hā lau ho'okahi, all knowledge is not taught in one shed. Each craft, each profession, teaches that which relates to their field, their understanding, their craft. The truths shown in how a thread is spun are meaningless to a mason, and a weaver knows nothing of plumbing a wall.
To come back to Plato's idea, each of these professions, each of these crafts, reflects the ideal Craft in the World of the Forms. Each is made after the original, but none can fully capture that original, for they are but reflections. The ideal Craft, the perfect Craft, can be seen through each craft, they can each teach part of it, but none are the Craft, the Craft of all crafts.
There's a reason witchcraft is so hard to define. A mason works with stone. A carpenter works with wood. A smith works with metal. I weaver works with thread and twine. A husbandman works with animals. But what does a witch work with? Power? Energy? Spirits? Fate? It can't be defined because it's not a simple craft, it is the Craft, the Craft of all crafts, that which all other crafts flow out of and are a reflection of.
We don't practice a craft. We practice THE Craft. The Craft of all crafts.