Science, Technology, and Witchcraft (Oh My!)
By Marilyn Marinn
A long running and interesting debate amongst many practitioners (which has many strong opinions on each side) has to do with updating our practices to use the tools of the time (i.e. scientific innovations, new technologies, etc.).
For those opposed to the practice, it is often an argument of tradition and sticking as closely as possible to the practices of our ancestors. Often the fear is that the power of our craft is diminished by stepping away from exact replications of the craft from some perceived mystical yesteryear. For many on this side of the debate, there seems to be a fear of either (1) losing what they perceive as the power behind their work or (2) risking a negative bastardization of the tradition.
Although I can understand the arguments made on this side of the aisle, I can't help but find myself opposed (at least for my own craft) to this conservative notion. There are a variety of reasons why.
First, to me, discovery and the field of science are closely linked to the craft. So much of the craft comes down to use of local vegetation and attempts to manipulate the energies of our surroundings and condition -- not all of which is as mystical as it might initially sound. Early agrarian societies figured out how to use the seasons and local plant life to feed their people, cooks and early healers learned how to combine or derive from this vegetation (and other resources) ways to heal and nourish. These were, in essence, the birth of our sciences as much as the craft.
As science and technology have further developed our society into what it is today, we are able to see the further fruits of science and the amazing things it allows us to accomplish. We can hurl ourselves into space and safely come back down to earth -- a feat anyone hundreds of years ago could have never imagined. We are manipulating nature to create more hardy and nutritious crops, using artificial lights and temperature systems to grow food and other plants where our ancestors could have never dreamed (i.e. indoors, rough environments, etc.), developing technology to communicate across the globe instantaneously, and so much more. Some may argue that technology assisted farming is a bastardization of nature. To which I would argue that it is merely a manipulation of nature adhering to its base tenets. Others might argue that there is a difference between psychic communication and one aided by technology, I would argue back that, although true, I am not sure that one necessarily negates the other. I was not blessed with the kind of psychic communicatory skills (as some claim to have), but I certainly have access to technology built up over time from our knowledge and understandings of the interactions of raw materials that can now emulate a similar communicative experience. These days, my voice and image, in simple terms, can float through the air, through fibers and metal (many of which are also used in the craft), whose energies are manipulated all to allow my form and/or voice to be projected to a person half way around the world.
It seems clear to me that science is its own kind of witchcraft. I realize this is perhaps a bit of a controversial "take" for some, and that is fine. But to me, successful magic is, at least in part, technological and scientific developments realized.
Secondly, the craft has strong traditions of using those things that are available. In a vast sum of the readings I have done on the craft, so much depends on adapting (to situations, to the available supplies in our environment, etc.) and seeing what does or does not work. To dismiss technology and innovation outright is to balk at even the potential of their usefulness. Should we not take this ideology of innovation and adaptation, which is woven into the fabric of much of the craft's history, along with us into these modern times and remember them in the years ahead?
Third, the craft requires our time and energy, why not make certain components of our practices easier? If I am spending a bit less time on preparing herbs and candles for rituals or tapping into the collective power of my coven over zoom to save us travel time - and the earth the inevitable pollution of that travel, to be frank -- would I not then be able to put more time and energy into the intent and my own actions towards materializing/manifesting my desired outcomes?
On a related note, should we not welcome the kind of accessibility that some of these leaps in technology and science afford to practitioners who may not be able bodied? If using an electronic herb grinder/blender, for example helps a person with arthritic hands, should we not welcome the way the craft might have opened up to that individual through these innovations? If a zoom call allows a coven member to participate in a ritual even though they are in the hospital the night before a surgery, should we not allow them to use these modern tools to participate?
Now, despite my willingness (and even advocacy) for utilizing and growing our practices to incorporate and/or adapt to advances in technology and other scientific innovation, I do think it is wise to continue being mindful of the energies that these adoptions could bring forth. I would never, for example, utilize a piece of purchased technology to be integrated into my practice without cleansing it as I would any other tool for my practice. Whether by sound, smoke, water, etc. (depending on what would be appropriate and non-damaging to the technology in question), I will always be sure to thoroughly cleanse these items before use to clear away any residual energy from the manufacturing process or those who may have handled the materials before they made their way to me. I will likely even go so far as to bless them.
It seems clear to me that there are a number of reasons to embrace the commingling of technology, science, and the craft. To me, all of these are already intimately related concepts. I think our oldest of ancestors would be amazed to see the steps we have taken and the things we are able to do today. Whether practitioners or not, I am certain each of them would proclaim (probably literally) our modern capabilities (largely resulting from science and technological advances) were "witchcraft" or some other expression synonymous with supernatural provenance. As a result, I will continue to gladly use and advocate for the the use of available modern technologies and sciences in my practice.
What are your thoughts on this, coven? Leave us a comment or tag us in a response on Social Media (@midwestcovencast on TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook; @midwestcoven on Twitter).