F – Functionalism in Practice

One of the most common things that pops up in that little “most searched things” in relation to my blog is “functionalism in witchcraft”. Which I’m not quite sure about, since I haven’t quite posted those words all together at once. I don’t know how that came up, but it did come up, so it was rather uniquely interesting. But, it did spark my curiosity to write a post, so I figure, it wasn’t too unusual to add this post to my blog.

I do have the interesting little dichotomy between my “pagan” practices and my “witchcraft” practices. I suppose that stems from some other parts of my personality and mentality, that I like order and function in my life, as I’ve already pointed out. So things work best for me when cleanly ordered and organized in ways that are convenient for myself. The more conveniently organized to my standards, the clearer I find everything to be. I wrote my last functionalism piece in dealing with mostly my daily life. It was not really anything much to do with my practices. That post was a bit more groundwork than anything else.

This time I want to focus on the more specific term that everyone keeps searching for, and on more pertinent examples that seem to draw people to my blog. I like relevance. And it seems people are interested in what I have to say, at least partially here, so I’ll share my personal opinions here.

Functionalism has far more to do with paganism/polytheism for me than it does with witchcraft. I am more fond of functionalism in things that do not require of experimentation. Polytheism for me has more functionalism to do with it than witchcraft does, because there isn’t as much experimentation to be done. There is some, absolutely no denying that fact, but it seems to me, rationally, that there is less experimentation there than in witchcraft practices. Perhaps that is personal bias or ideology, but that is how it has always seemed to me.

Since functionalism is to me based in being rational and functional, what is functional in its place, I don’t like basing anything in my life on this kind of relational thing that can’t actually be determined thus. I mean…experimental relations, such as witchcraft is for me, cannot be totally functional. There will be misfires, things that do not totally go as they should the first time, that go out of place…so it’s not functional, not fully. Therefore, for me, witchcraft is not functional, not as part of my “functionalism” as such. Because things are going to be off at the start, and therefore I cannot see there being, for my practices “functionalism in witchcraft”. It won’t exist, because witchcraft has too many unknowns, too many things that will change and warp, that are dependent upon other factors. That isn’t functional to place within a set and defined system, and therefore cannot then be totally part of any system.

However, polytheism for me can be functional.

In my view, the gods and spirits have various purposes that are unique and necessary within the system to their own. They might overlap at times, and sometimes might seem to contradict. Still, the purposes are set, and they fit within the system. Polytheism is easier to put within the framework of structuralism, which is my way of seeing the world. Things might sometimes clash within the system, but mostly they stay in their usual places. Functionalism in polytheism means, for me, that things have their place and purpose, that they sit where they ought and remain comfortably out of where they ought not. So, if something is certainly not a home spirit, it will not ever be a home spirit, whereas, if it is a god of prosperity, it will act in such a way that goes along that path.

Witchcraft however, is different, because unexpected events can unfold. One might do magic or a spell for one purpose, and unusual results can show up. Or also, as I think, it can show up in unintentional side-effects of sorts. Not always, but since experimentation is essential, things will crop up at times, and unintentional will happen on at least rare occasions.

So functionalism is not, for me, possible, in witchcraft. Experimentation makes it almost impossible in my worldview.

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I'm a bibliophile who loves collecting books. Definite cat person. Amateur historian and major geek, who loves all things Tolkien and Star Trek. I'm also fluent in German.

3 thoughts on “F – Functionalism in Practice

  1. I’m a little confused here. Aren’t all relationships, whether with humans or gods, unpredictable and thus have a fluidity that is often not controllable and can become “dysfunctional”? Some people think witchcraft when used for spells and such is like gambling and only a good gambler will get the resultant reward they want. When you differentiate witchcraft with paganism and polytheism are you referring to the former as dealing with northern European pantheons and the latter with more Mediterranean deities? Do you see your gods as being more like functional buttons or more like a mystical dance? I mean no offense, but after reading this a few times and thinking about it these questions came up. Blessings.

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    1. For me, witchcraft is the spellwork, the spells, magic and such. Paganism and polytheism are working with spirits and deities. There’s no distinction for me between pantheons with the different terms (i.e. northern=paganism, Mediterranean=polytheism). I think I must have confused with switching the terms. I hadn’t noticed I used both terms in my post, that was unintentional.

      I don’t see the gods as functional buttons. I think it is more that gods are less of an experimentation in my view, because there are fundamental bases that gods and spirits have within a certain pantheon. UPGs may differ, but at the heart, a certain god will not act against his nature. That’s why I see the paganism/polytheism side of my practice as being functionalism. Because functionally, the gods or spirits have a base that they come from.

      Whereas the witchcraft, which for me, as I’m fully self-taught, is wholly experimental, cannot fit into a functionalist perspective, as things will not always fit with the basic nature of experimentation. Experimenting necessitates change, which goes contrary, to me, of a functional system where everything has a place, because constant change constantly moves the places.

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      1. Thank you for responding. I think i am probably not a normal spell casting witch. On the one hand i am a high priest for over 30 years of an established lineage, and fact is our rituals are the same as the seasons change. We work magicke in our cone of power as a group, and witches do their own spells for their own reasons. We use various methods but i would not call us eclectic. Many are “kitchen witches” but i am not much of one. In my own personal practice of witchcraft i seek my own UPG in meditation in nature or in various other systems of eastern and western magickes, so in that way i would also be a pagan/polytheist.
        Regarding the various god/esses one one hand i agree with Jung and Buddha that all are a projections of one’s mind, a part of one’s self. But on the other hand i do believe in various hierarchies of higher, middle and lower beings, whatever you want to call or define them. Do they change? i think they change in our minds. How we view Artemis is not how the Greeks did. We have reconstructed our god/esses in modern witchcraft, paganism and our various polytheistic pantheons.
        So whatever works for each of us is the path we should walk and work on for sure.

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