Witchy Granny Chakras

At what point do we say something has become a tradition in its own right?

The idea of chakras as drawn from eastern traditions first entered western awareness in 1927, according to wikipedia. My Gran was 7. Other people’s grannies had yet to be born. It means your modern witch could quite legitimately have learned about chakras from their witchy granny who learned about it from a book, that they might not have read themselves, but which may have been transmitted to them by other means.

How much eastern mysticism entered western thought in the 1960s when others of our witchy grannies learned it from someone who had met someone who had once sniffed a real guru?

Wikipedia also reckons that prana and Mesmer’s animal magnetism were pretty much the same thing. Not that wikipedia is an unassailable font of wisdom, but its a place to start. The west has been borrowing exotic things from the east for a long, long time. But it goes deeper, because if these things have some kind of reality, then anyone, in theory, can figure them out. If an energy system is real, you don’t need a witchy Granny or a guru to teach it to you, you can just find it. Possibly.

I’m a second generation modern Pagan. No doubt my son is picking things up from me that I’ve absorbed along the way. Some of them, like my pronunciation of Beltane, are not as they were in their original, authentic and proper context. Does that matter? Does it matter that there’s a western chakra tradition that might have very little to do with anything anywhere else in the world? If it works for people, is that more important?

I learned what I thought were traditional folk songs from my grandmother. They turned out to be songs by singer songwriters who were there at the start of the folk revival in the UK. They are still the traditional songs I learned from my granny. But that’s not the same as being part of one of those families that handed down songs through the generations. But what if my son learns those songs from me, and his children as well? At what point do we become tradition bearers? I offer it as a parallel, because while I have a lot of folk songs, I don’t have any chakras whatsoever. The issues still interest me.

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

7 responses to “Witchy Granny Chakras

  • Blodeuwedd

    Everything is new at some point and ‘traditions’ don’t take very long to get established. I agree, the real criterion is ‘does it work for you?’

  • angharadlois

    Interesting… I suppose it all depends on how we define “traditional.” When you say “I learned what I thought were traditional folk songs from my grandmother” and then say “…that’s not the same as being part of one of those families that handed down songs through the generations” – it kind of *is* the same! The difference is that you know (now) who wrote those songs. A lot of what we now think of as traditional folk songs were popular songs back in their day, a few centuries ago, but authorship was harder to keep track of back then. If the songs are good, and they still resonate through the ages, then why not sing them and pass them on?

    (full disclosure: I am a fan of Iolo Morgannwd 🙂 )

  • Virgil

    The thing with chakras is that the new age community has kind of taken the concept and run with it. Traditionally, work with the chakras and kundalini was considered very dangerous and required an amount of dedication to training that is inconceivable to most westerners. As for what is “traditional,” I’d say that term is just a label to be used when convenient whenever conversing with others. As a general rule, I try to avoid labels but maybe that’s just me since I tend not to engage in conversations of an occult/spiritual nature.

    • Nimue Brown

      So many things that are now available to everyone were at some point considered the business of specialists. I’m attracted to the democratising aspect of this, to the anti-authoritarian aspects of it, but at the same time am very aware there’s a lot of things in this life that require work, effort and dedication, and that all too often when things are offered as more accessible, we lose all sense of there being some work required, and so many people never know there is more to do than scrape the surface.

  • Gwion

    I still feel relatively new to the druid/pagan/etc world but I do have a lifetime of “folk” behind me (and the idea of what’s traditional is so hotly debated there that I tend to stay clear of the topic when talking to folkies) – so please bear with me if I use the folk song analogy for a moment.

    In my own mind, what matters for songs is the process by which I get them. To some extent I consider myself lucky that I can’t read music so all tunes I learn I learn by ear. I’ve also learned many of the lyrics simply by hearing them frequently, rather than by finding the words in a book or on the internet. Whether these songs, learned by ear, have authors that can be traced or not, they have, in a sense, been learned through what used to be the “folk process”. Why is that important to me? Because the learning process knocks off anything that would feel to me like a “rough edge”. (In many cases the singers I learned the songs from had also learned them the same way meaning even fewer rough edges.) The result of this cumulative process is, hopefully, a song that fits me and that I fit: it’s bespoke. It’s been moulded first by the community that loves and appreciates it and then the finishing touches have been put to it by me. You may not like it (I never said I was any good at it) and it may not work for you but it’s the best that I can do and, like a comfy old jumper, it fits me.

    Sometimes I hear people singing a song and they have the words and sheet music in front of them – they’re singing something they’ve printed directly from the internet – and I’m reminded of the “String Band” Hedgehog’s Song lyrics “Oh, you know all the words, and you sung all the notes, But you never quite learned the song.” From my perspective, you need to internalise a song before you can release it again.

    So back to the plot – perhaps chakra concepts etc can be looked at in the same way. It’s not where it came from but the process that it’s been through to reach you. Has it been loving remoulded by a community that loves and uses it with respect and love? Have you, yourself really learned to use it your way so that it becomes part of who you are or have you just picked up something from a book without ever really internalising it? (Your comment “we lose all sense of there being some work required” is the key one here – see the Hedgehog’s Song again.) If it’s gone through the full “traditionalising” process though, does it matter if the first record of its use was in Europe, Africa or Asia?

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