If “A forest is what exists between its trees (John Berger)”, how about people feeling these intangible force and trying to manipulate the force? Then we have a witch and the craft of mastering the supernatural powers is called witchcraft. There is a strong connection between witches, witchcraft and the forest. The witch lives in the forest. In our age of science we learned that people living in the forest where mostly outsiders not some sort of Yedi-Knight with supernatural powers. What if we are wrong?
The biggest question however is, what do we exactly mean by “witchcraft”? The problem is that our knowledge stems mostly from the witch-craze in the Late Medieval/Early Modern Period. That means our idea of witchcraft is pretty much influenced by the weird fantasies of the holy inquisition not from people who really knew about the phenomenon of “witchcraft”. Its a mix of the paranoia of the accusers and the questionable testimonies of the poor victims of the inquisition and cracy witchhunters. Furthermore there are Old Testament laws and very different ideas in separate cultures. There isn’t a simple concept of “Witchcraft”, even there are countless book about magic, modern wicca-witchcraft and so on.
Nevertheless there might be a familiar thing about witchcraft, something a lot of people can relate to. Witchcraft is as old as mankind. It’s both kind of a sixth sense and a craft. It’s the ability to handle what can’t be understood in the rational way, but is definitely there. It’s often connected with the woods since we believe that it’s the woods where the supernatural energies are strongest. It’s also something my feature film project “The Forest Dark” is about.
If we think of the concept of “Witchcraft” as kind of a craft like “Bushcraft” it means it is about something which is there and what needs to be mastered. “Bushcraft” for example is the ability and knowledge to survive in the wilderness. It means building a makeshift-shelter, find food, hunting, making a fire, orient yourself. Without a certain training you cannot survive in the wilderness for weeks.
I suggest that “Witchcraft” and “Bushcraft” have a lot in common. It’s about survival. Witchcraft is not so much about casting a spell or invoking some demon but the ability to survive in a supernatural cosmos. Its often said the witch is somebody with a gift, born with a sixth sense and always has one foot in the other world. Such a person would need to learn to distinct between own projection, supernatural phenomena and deceptions. As long as the other world is close to our plane of reality it is a treacherous reality. It’s also called Maya. It can be dangerous, and one meaning of witchcraft could be navigating through different realms and finally try to get a deeper understanding.
The forest is a good training ground for heigthening the senses. Our reality mix more easily with the other realities. Therefore it doesn’t makes me wonder that we find the witch in the dark forest. Of course it might be also the place where we find another kind of witch. Somebody who crossed the borders and is now haunting the woods.
Nothing is certain here particularly if it comes to the ability to control these forces or the effects of magic rituals. Its astonishing that we have a whole “science” of witchcraft with “Grimoires” and very precise ideas on one side and on the other side modern scientists telling us it’s all stupid superstition. It might be a sign that there are still a lot of open questions here. The medium Dion Fortune speculated in her book “Psychic Self Defence” about subtle forces “which are the basis of both occult attack and spiritual healing”. The nature of this subtle force is closely analogous to electricity, and their nature “is something that is akin to life, though of a low type” (she thinks of something like bacteria).
It’s a plausible idea that the diviner using “Witchcraft” is somebody who controls and uses that form of “electricity”. It’s an image which makes some sense. It is also an interesting thought if we think of electricity and fields.
There are electric fields and magnetism. In an analogy we could says that the witch is somebody who is aware of the “field”,furthermore works with a kind of field and can manipulate the field (even its true nature remains unknown) and in the forest the field is strongest.