To lock a thread simply because someone poses a valid argument and disagrees is a bad way to end things, I personally think it is distasteful and debated whether to keep my mouth shut. Looks like I'm not going to.
First of all, I do of course respect the opinions of Brysing et al, but I certainly don't think his age, years of experience in his own tradition (which is one of many), and virtual title has anything to do with one's authority when it comes to witchcraft. In fact to claim authority over witchcraft is a ludicrous thing to do! (And I am not saying that is what has been done, but rather, that is what it seems like).
Now let's get back to witchcraft as a historical practice. The opinion which is often thrown about here as act is that witchcraft has nothing to do with the supernatural at all, now this may be true for one person's tradition, but they really should say "My tradition of witchcraft has nothing to do with the supernatural". To say witchcraft has nothing to do with the supernatural or the occult is just incorrect and quite frankly idiotic. It doesn't need to have anything to do with them, but that does not mean some traditions do not.
Now witchcraft is often associated solely with the British isles, and I somewhat agree with this, the term and the majority of practices which are popularised today do have their connections to the British isles, as such this will be my focus. There are, however, witches from various European cultures with similar practices to those of the British isles and similar beliefs and customs, they simply go by different names such as the "Benandanti" of Italy and their counterpart of the "Malandanti".
Back to Britain.
The British isles are curious due to the fact that from region to region the people who live there differed greatly in many respects throughout history, and in some ways (particularly in accent and dialect) still do. There are many differences in folklore and local superstitions from region to region.
Witchcraft also differed in the particulars region to region. Not only did this difference occur region to region, but it also occurred family to family. The traditions which were/are passed down evolved over time and often privately, this means that witchcraft did not have a set standard as is often suggested today by misinformed pseudo-wicccans, but differed, sometimes greatly, depending on your region, upbringing, and personal gnosis. This is why earlier I stated it was not only erroneous but also idiotic to suggest a person or group of people have a final say on witchcraft.
I piece together traditions from my local area by looking at accounts given during the confessions of the infamous 'pendle witches' and separating the nonsense from the truths hidden within the embellishment, these truths are often based upon earlier source material, folklore, or other logical assumptions and speculations into the possible family tradition they expressed. Their version of witchcraft differs greatly from the expression of Cornish witchcraft which is perhaps more pure in the sense that it somewhat survived some of the immediate conversions to Christianity and indeed integration into the collective of Britain.
They differ because witchcraft and one's practices, understanding and beliefs differ from family to family, region to region, person to person. And before the argument is levelled against me, materialism is just as much a belief as a belief in a metaphysical realm. For further information and a longer argument of this I recommend Robert Anton Wilson's "The New Inquisition" in which he demonstrates this argument more willingly and more eloquently than I could.
Now much of the original, pure traditions of witchcraft are lost, we do have a scattering of documents here and there, but nothing substantial. Historical witchcraft of the 1600s surprisingly seems to combine folklore, sympathetic magic, and local beliefs with that of the more Christian based occult texts such as Agrippa's books on occult philosophy, the key of Solomon, and a scattering of other grimoires. I feel this is important to mention because there is a definite combination of magic, paganism, and Christian beliefs in English witchcraft especially in the 17th century, it also shows a connection between high magic and witchcraft which is often overlooked.
As I have just outlined above, to claim the occult is separate from witchcraft is erroneous. It can be, but isn't always, and if I have my say looking at sources it rarely was.
Another false assertion which is stated often on this site by people is that 'real witches' (whatever that means) do not cast spells. Well they should take a trip to the museum of witchcraft in cornwall and simply look at the evidence of various items used in sympathetic magic, talismans, and other occult paraphernalia used in spellcraft not only from one region or tradition, but collectively across the British isles.
The fact is (some/most) witches then believed in the supernatural and in the power of spells and performed them. The fact is that witches still do, the practice has quietened down in England now, but certainly in Ireland it is not uncommon to have a witch in the village who provides healing via herbs, but also via energy. They also provide services of protection and other services sometimes at a cost, other times for free. This still goes on today and I have second hand accounts of such things.
I am absolutely sick of people claiming authority over a subject which they have no right to claim authority over. I have family traditions handed down to me, I have had spells, herbal remedies, and philosophy held in my family handed down to me and for someone to proclaim that my family's tradition is not witchcraft because they were not atheists, were Christian, and because they practised magic is downright insulting. Furthermore, I would like to point out that I don't push my own understanding of witchcraft on to other people because I realise that it is my experience, my tradition, my personal gnosis, and the knowledge of the woman who passed some to me. I don't speak for other witches because their practice and their beliefs (including the belief in materialism) has absolutely nothing to do with me, and because I personally value secrecy when it comes to some things.
If others wish to share their own experiences and beliefs, I applaud them for their generosity and willingness to help. I understand when people get touchy about people not stating it is a belief and then trying to make someone else believe them, I truly do. But that is not what happens on most threads, and I have seen people accused of it and their words twisted.
Now, I would include a reading list, but the traditional witchcraft thread created by Dakota lists fabulous books which are well worth reading.
Sadly it has been locked, perhaps because this site is dominated by Wiccans who dislike traditional witchcraft, or witches who can't handle the fact that witchcraft differs from tradition to tradition, but perhaps it is just because they don't like folk who talk back.
Well I'm pointing out the stupidity and hypocrisy currently dominating this site, and I know I am not the only one who sees it. I might be younger than many of the people here considered knowledgeable, but what I do have is a good mind and the capability to perceive and understand.
Have a nice day.