Updated: Feb 17
I've been thinking lately traditional witches might do well to compare living initiatory traditions/threads/Houses to worker-owned cooperatives. So thoroughly have our minds here in the West been en-spelled with all the tropes and frames of Capitalism and individualism, that I fear that collective ownership of something is hard for us to really conceive and get our minds around.
Initiates of these Houses would then be comparable to worker-owners, those with a vested interest in the business, who have bought into it with time, energy, and resources. And if we are to think of witchcraft vocationally, those initiates active in a House kind of are "in the business" of it.
So what does it mean to collectively own a tradition? For me it means I have to communicate and interact with those folks I say I'm in a tradition with, and co-create *with* them. I know that power-from-within does not exist distinct from power-with, just as Iron and Pearl do not actually exist distinct from one another. I don't get to just do my own thing, because our tradition doesn't belong to me individually, it belongs to all initiates, living *and* dead. It's not "my own," it's "our own."
To remedy the destructive ideology of individualism, I think we must share our lives, our problems, challenges, triumphs, our joys and concerns. And we don't get to tear each other down because we are linked into one mythic ecosystem of power and lore.
I often think of a forest, and the mycelial network that supports and sustains the tree root systems. The illness of one tree affects the whole forest, and the whole forest responds by sending nutrients from other trees to that sick one. Trees are kind of the worker-owners of a forest.
If there was no mycelial network in the soil, no communication and management of nutrients, there would be no active forest. Likewise, a living tradition exists only where there is active interaction within that tradition and community between initiates. If your tradition is too big to interact with everyone, I’d suggest you have more than one House burgeoning under the roof, and you need to swarm.
This isn't to say that solitary initiates of witch Houses don't exist, but I suspect for the thread to be thrumming with vitality and virtue, they have to be actively practicing and interacting with the spirits (especially the spirits of dead initiates).
The other part of this (which I know the tradition of which I'm an initiate has had an issue with historically), is dealing with strife and resentment.
A witching house must have lore, exercises, and methodologies for dealing with shit-sandwiches that come with the human element of being a witch. All of us carry trauma, shame, and soul-loss to some degree, and a strong tradition will have ways of moving through, transforming, and reclaiming power to achieve greater access to flow/current.
A strong tradition will acknowledge this work as integral to the wholeness and the sustainability of not only the practitioner but also the group. It will address how we cannot "bite" and lash out at those we are magically committed to as we encounter the alembic of sorcery that stirs each of our personal maelstroms. A strong tradition has techniques for refining our humanity to what it takes to stand and not fall. This leads to more deeper and wider transformation, a flowering of selves. Witches of the initiatory houses aim to gestate our wholeness in our very bones, and that requires the work of many, together.
And we *are* in this together. *NOTHING* is accomplished without help. All this grist is needed collectively. A forest doesn't grow or heal through the individuality of trees. It grows through the collective effort of them. We strengthen one another through our similarities and differences, and nourish our magical gifts by sharing our personal strengths and weaknesses within our spiritual families.