Monday, January 31, 2011

Witchcraft for the Paranormal Author Workshop

Guest Blog FFnP
February 2011
Deborah Blake

I give a number of online writing classes—all of which people seem to like and get something out of—but by far the most popular is my “Witchcraft for the Paranormal Author” workshop. The workshop is aimed at giving those who write witchy characters accurate information about modern Witchcraft, so that they can get their characters right. Or at least know what they’re doing when they choose to get it wrong. (This is fiction, after all.)

I am particularly well-qualified to teach this class, and not just because many of my novels feature witches as protagonists. You see, I’m a witch. (Insert cackle here.)

Don’t worry—I’m a good witch, not a bad witch. Well, really there is no such thing as the bad witch, outside of fairy tales and Hollywood, so that was a given. But not everybody knows that, of course. There is a lot of misinformation out there about Witchcraft and Wicca, which is one of the reasons I give this class. Most of the writers I know try and write realistic characters, even in books that have unrealistic settings, like paranormal romances and fantasies. So whether their witch character is the hero/heroine or the bad guy, they want to have at least some basis in fact for the actions and motivations of that character.

That’s where I come in. I have written five nonfiction books on Wicca and modern Witchcraft (all published by Llewellyn), so I have some expertise in this area. Not that there is one right way with Witchcraft; practices can vary so widely that it is hard to make sweeping generalizations about the modern practice of this ancient path. But here are a few basics that are usually accepted to be true by most Witches.

1) Witchcraft is a nature-based religion, usually involving the worship of both a goddess and a god. Often god/dess is worshipped in many forms, in which case the religion is considered to be pantheistic.
2) The modern versions of Witchcraft (of which Wicca is probably the best known) are based in part on the practices of Pagans from earlier times, and in part are a modern construct. Either way, it seems to work for those who follow it.
3) There are no rules as such, but one core concept is known as “The Wiccan Rede” and says, “An it harm none, do as ye will.” Which sounds pretty free and easy, until you realize that it means that no Witch should take any action which will lead to the harm of another or him/herself. And while this can be a challenge, most Witches do their best to follow the Rede. So…no wicked witch. Sorry.
4) Witches also believe that what you put out into the universe is what you get back. This is also known as “The Law of Returns” or, for those who take it one step further, and believe that what you put out comes back to you times THREE, it is referred to as “The Threefold Law.” Again, imagine if you will that supposed wicked witch, casting a spell to give her enemy warts. And ending up with um, maybe boils. Ugh. No thank you. [And yes, of course there are people who don’t follow the rules—but that’s true in any religion.]
5) Because Witchcraft is a nature-based religion, most Witches feel a strong connection to the natural world. In real life, this often translates to people who recycle, compost, have gardens, and do a lot of their worshipping outside. In a fictional world, this gives the author a great opportunity to play with the elements (earth, air, fire, and water), as well as the moon in all its phases.
6) Witches usually base their practice on natural cycles, such as the changing seasons and the phases of the moon. This is often referred to as “The Wheel of the Year,” and includes both Esbats (full moons) and Sabbats (the eight holidays of the Pagan year, many of which are the basis for the holidays most people celebrate…such as Easter, Christmas, Halloween, and even Ground Hog Day).
7) Witches believe in magic. Yes, we really do. Not Harry Potter wave-a-wand-and-you’re-invisible magic (darn it), but magic as a natural force in the universe. Witches believe that you can harness your own will and intent to create positive change in the world. (Like prayer, in many ways.) And of course, an author can truly work magic with a witch character to help them.

I love to write about witches, both in fiction and nonfiction. And I love to read other author’s approaches to witchy characters, too. Some of my favorites include Candace Havens, Mindy Klasky, and Yasmine Galenorn, although there are many, many wonderful writers out there creating fun and fascinating witches to entertain and bespell their readers with.

If you write paranormal or fantasy fiction, I hope that you will join me for my next “Witchcraft for the Paranormal Author” workshop, at the FFnP RWA online loop in March. Otherwise, just go out and read some fun books about witches. I promise you’ll find them to be absolutely magical!

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