Tag Archives: chakras

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.

The trouble with Chakras

I’m going to come right out and say it: I do not have any chakras. I was first introduced to them as a concept when I was sixteen, and nothing at all happened. Since then (twenty years!) I’ve been meditating, visualising, working with my body’s energy, and every so often being talked into having another go. I am entirely certain that nothing resembling chakras is happening down the front of my person. No one is going to persuade me otherwise.

The trouble with chakras is that they are treated as a universal truth. What was originally a feature of Hindu belief, has been embraced wholesale and turns up everywhere. It doesn’t seem to matter what path you claim to follow, someone will be waving it at you. The New Age Movement treats chakras as fact, as indisputably how your body works and I cannot begin to tell you how sick I am of finding it thrown casually into all kinds of books where really it has no place or point.

Other ways of thinking about bodily energy are available. I was exposed to Tai Chi fairly early on (I was about 20). There are no chakras in Taoism. Instead I was introduced to ideas of energy flow, of the circular nature of energy as it moves through the body. That makes a lot of sense to me. I’ve listened to Theo Wildcroft (http://www.wildyoga.co.uk/) talking about physical structures in the body, creating flows and connections in ways that, while I don’t grasp visually too well, make a lot of emotional sense to me. Acupuncture works on a theory of energy meridians in the body, and those aren’t lined up down your middle like the standard ruddy chakras.

But then, actual, Hindu chakras don’t have much to do with New Age chakras either. What the original idea of chakras offers is a complex and subtle system of body energy, and when you start looking at that it compares rather coherently to the meridians and flows that I’ve run into other places. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chakra for a quick sense of what’s really out there).

What has happened is that the western New Age movement has latched onto a complex ancient system, picked on the ‘important’ bit – those ‘main’ seven chakras, hauled them out of context and proceeded to deal with them with no reference to the systems, bodily and spiritual that they actually pertain to. We in the Pagan community are all too guilty of picking up the western seven chakra rubbish and passing it on as an absolute truth, without even knowing properly where it comes from or how it works. This is shoddy in every way.

If you’re going to do chakras, throw away the books that tell you how there are seven of them, and how to clean them, and flowers to associate with them, and precious little else. Go back to the original culture, and learn this stuff properly. If you want to do body energy, you have a body, and energy, and sitting down with what you’ve got, to contemplate it, ponder, study, experience and investigate it will serve you perfectly well. And if it turns out that you do not feel like you have chakras, and that you see and understand your body in some other way, you are not alone!