Back when I was working on Druidry and the Ancestors, I was thinking as much about the stories we tell as I was about factual history. One of the great stories of modern Paganism, is the witchy Granny. I had one. You probably do too. And if you don’t, you’ve probably got a mad old uncle, or a semi-mythic great grandmother, or a more archetypal image to fill the gap. We need the witchy grannies, they fulfil a really important role.
The witchy granny stands between us (as disconnected moderns) and an ancient world of mystery. She has knowledge that evokes the Pagan past, and is closer to the land than us. Life has taught her compassion, but she probably won’t be too fluffy or nice. Hers is the compassion that can put a suffering animal out of its misery or can tell someone they’re on a hiding to nothing. She does not tolerate fools lightly, speaks her mind, knows her heart. Of course she isn’t perfect and the odds are she isn’t popular because she scares people. The witchy granny connects us to the past, roots us in our ancestry and tells us that nature worship isn’t some distant idea, but recent, alive and available.
Considering all of that, it doesn’t matter whether or not she was real in any literal sense, if she was your biological ancestor, or even if any of them ever existed. Witchy grannies are a modern myth of great value, so let’s embrace them as that.
Last week I read a wonderful ‘witchy granny’ story – Hexe, by Skadi Winter. It’s set in Germany after the second world war, so the granny of this tale is much more rooted in the Heathen tradition. Given how the Nazis tried to appropriate Heathenry (and still try) this book has a lot of layers, levels and implications in it. How do we reclaim a past that another group of people have approached in sacrilegious ways? How do we make connections with our ancestors when some of the more immediate ones are a real problem? How does identity connect to ancestry, and what happens when ideas around that become dogmatic and toxic?
Writing stories that help us explore the past is a really important process. The more difficult the history, the more important it is to get in there and try to make sense of it. All kudos to Skadi for taking on this period and these issues, and for sharing her insights.