Three centuries of Spanish colonization reshaped and transfigured the supernatural beliefs of Filipinos: Ancient worships of Bathala and nature were superseded by devotion to the Catholic Church, venerable diwatas and anitos were replaced by the Virgin Mary, and anting-antings and charms were swapped for scapulars and rosaries.
However, long before the Philippines was colonized by the Spaniards, our ancestors had already established their own beliefs. Witchcraft, distasteful as it may sound, was actually a common practice among ancient Filipinos. And though these days, supernatural beliefs and practices are considered taboo by our pre-dominantly Catholic society, it is a fact that in this day and age, there are witches who still live among us.
Solitary they may be, these witches are not the pointy-black-hat-wearing, green-skinned harpies that are often sensationalized and stereotyped in the media, but something else entirely.
Born and raised Catholic, *Ardora Lur discovered Wicca at the age of 15, when she accompanied a friend who was exploring witchcraft to a Wiccan store in New York. “My friend left with candles, and I left with an invitation to learn more about it.”
Wicca witchcraft is a modern denomination of paganism that originated in the 1950s, a religion practiced by some witches, but not all. It is a nature-based religion that recognizes the presence of the Divine in all things.
“Wicca rang true for me more than Catholicism did. I was grateful that it had answers for me that Catholicism did not. It gave me a sense and purpose, and allowed me to understand my place in nature,” says Ardora.
That curious-teen-venture in New York happened 21 years ago. Ardora, who is now 36, is married and has two boys of her own. Her husband was a long-time friend and knew about her beliefs and practices as a Wiccan long before they decided to be together. Despite
being a Wiccan, Ardora shares that she and her husband baptized their children as Catholics.
“We have raised them to understand that there are different religions and practices. When they are older, they are free to decide, but we are raising them
with the foundation and love of God we were raised with.”
Divine in all things
“We are not Devil worshippers,” says Ardora matter-of-factly. “First and foremost, we do not believe in the existence of the Devil. We, however, recognize that as there is the light side, there is the dark where evil and malice thrive.”
Ardora mentions, however, that Wiccans believe they are cared for and guided by the Goddess, who is accompanied by her consort, the Horned God.
Other than this, Ardora also talks about the prominent symbols and tools that are used in witchcraft. One of these is the pentacle or pentagram, a five-pointed star used to represent two different concepts: the elements of the universe (earth, air, fire, water, and spirit) or just the element of Earth.
“We also have the Altar, which is the focal point of both magical and religious rights; the Ritual Book or the Book of Shadows, an instruction manual, recipe book, and magical diary; and the Wand, used to focus the Will and to direct personal energies, among others.”
Moreover, there is also the Wiccan Rede and the Rule of Three, which is also known as the Three-Fold Law, The Law of Three, or The Law of Return, to keep in mind.
“If you harm none, do what you will,” the Wiccan Rede states. According to Ardora, Wiccans do as they will, but are also guided by the Rede, that they should act as long as their actions do not harm others.
Meanwhile, the Rule of Three is a tenet, which states that all good and bad a person does to another returns to them threefold, or thrice as much.
Aside from verifying that Wiccan witches are not devil worshippers, there are other myths and stereotypes that Ardora clarifies.
“Magic is your bunny in a hat kind of performance. The practice of affecting change in nature through will, intent, and purpose is called magick.” Ardora mentions that all witches work on and practice their magickal craft.
White magick, Gray magick, and Black magick are some of the different types of magick practiced by witches, although Ardora shares that some witches only dabble in White magick.
“It is a practice that focuses on the betterment of all or with the purpose of communing with the Divine. Gray magick is used for personal gain and is potentially manipulative to others,” she shares. Meanwhile, Black magick is purposely harmful and is work with darker forces.
Potions and broomsticks
“[Potions] work, but the drinker must also carry the faith in the potion you create. Real potions are most likely made of food and non-toxic recipes containing fruits, herbs, and meat that have corresponding magickal properties.”
You can forget about the potions from Harry Potter, then, for Ardora is quick to point out that eyes of newt, spiders, tongues, and lacewings are not the ingredients used in potion making.
“Broomsticks are ritual items; one of its purposes is to assist in cleaning out negativity by sweeping it out the door.”
No gravity-defying Elphaba here; you cannot fly using your broomstick, ladies and gentlemen, and that’s coming from a Wiccan witch herself.
‘So mote it be.’
It is customary to end modern prayers with an ‘Amen’. ‘So mote it be’ is one of the archaic phrases used by the Pagan community, which translates to ‘so shall it be’. In modern Wiccan practices, the phrase is used as a way to wrap up a ritual or spell.
Ardora admits that their Wiccan rituals are not for public display and since it is not for all, people oftentimes weave tales around it due to fear of what they do not understand. With the Philippines being a predominantly Catholic country, it is true that witchcraft and anything occult is considered anomalous and taboo.
“The generalization is unfair, but expected,” says Ardora. “Wicca is not something you evangelize, it is not for everyone.”
When asked about her advice to Filipino youth who want to explore Wicca, Ardora says: “Read up on it. Religion is a personal practice and faith is your path alone. If Wicca rings true for you, then read more, learn more, and practice. The teacher comes when the student is ready.”
“And if you have read more than enough, then you will know that Wicca is not as glamorous as it is made to be, but as enchanting as you will allow it to be in your life.”
So mote it be.