There are two videos that had a large part in the formation of this article. One was a video done by MrShadowbwoy on doll magic and the other was a video done by Australian Witch on a spell she was doing using a bone and runes. In both videos they refer to the magic they are doing as ‘being very primitive magic’ and ‘proper old world magic’. It was a concept that stuck with me because of the way language works, in order for there to be something you call primitive there must also be something you call advanced (though there are various words that could be used in place of advanced it is the one that best fits the context of the usage of primitive). Typically things that are primitive or ‘lo-tech’ are things that we perceive as being old and typically things that are advanced are things we perceive as being new, though there are feasible exceptions. It should come as no surprise then that in Australian Witch’s video she is using a piece of cow bone and in MrShadowbwoy’s video he is using various mediums to create dolls (clay, bread, cloth etc).
Though there is a precedent to say that Pagans and Heathens have one eye on the past and one eye on the now (and their third eye on the future), there doesn’t seem to be very much mention of techniques that are ‘new’. Obviously there is a lot of subjectivity in these things when it comes to saying whether something is new or old. However the idea of old and new techniques is something that has really only been expressed from one side of the coin as it were. There are regular mentions of ‘old techniques’ or ‘primitive magic’ but rarely if ever does someone make mention of what they are doing being something new. Personally I have no issues with this just because of the prevailing social fascination with things that are new (previously stated Pagan and Heathen focus notwithstanding). Where the idea of old and new techniques gets interesting is when you start to consider what affect that has on peoples’ perceptions of what is and is not primitive or advanced.
Functionally, at least within the Pagan and Heathen community, advanced carries two meanings – one that means a higher order of skill and one that means a more developed methodology. Most of the time the two meanings are more or less intertwined and accepted with both meanings and they become synonymous. However it is entirely possible for an advanced technique to also be primitive and a primitive technique to be advanced. For someone who hasn’t worked with the runes before, anointing a bone and inscribing a spell upon it in runes and working in that way is both primitive and advanced. What is physically being done is really fairly primitive, piece of bone, bit of oil, strange writing and done. However what is being done mystically and magically is, for that person at least, quite advanced; the runes deal with energies that are conceptually and practically different to various practices, more so when more than one rune is being used. At the same time, to someone such as myself who currently works exclusively with runes the invocation of a particular element in a pentacle is advanced but also primitive; advanced because of its focus on the energetic, primitive because it is a relatively simple technique.
Like a lot of things like this, the most significant answer seems to be an amalgamation of all the options. A technique can be old and primitive, old and advanced, new and primitive, new and advanced – and that’s without even going into various combinations based on the perspectives of the people involved. I do however think that it is something that is crucial for the community to consider in the near future.
MrShadowbwoy’s video: A Series of Folk Magic and Witchcraft-Dolls,Magistelli, Poppets.
Australian Witch’s video: Raw Magick: Bone and Rune Sigil Spellwork