Witchcraft Permitted … A View of Now and Then
Author: Crystal Crone
It’s 3 a.m. here in the UK. Strange for me to be wide awake and at my pc writing away. My advancing years scarcely see me out of my bed at this small hour of the early morning.
However, my meditations last night, far from preparing me to end the day in a peaceful and contented state, stirred up a now rare and unusual desire to revisit all the old ground I had walked over in my youth.
I am sure that many of us will do this from time to time as a matter of course, just in case anything was missed that may have bearing on where our path took us and how we decided that the path we were on was the way we were meant to go.
No problem with my choice for sure, I have never had any real doubts about the road I walked in almost fifty years of traveling along it.
Unusually for me however, I am gripped by a will to be the “inquisitor”. Just for this time I am pulled from my bed by a thirst to revisit old issues I have already faced and “put to bed”!
Just for today, I will allow myself to forget political correctness, even to the extent that the dreaded “thought police” will pick up on my very mixed up mind as I examine issues that trouble my mind.
Only for today, at this time and on this night.
I think that maybe my mind has been stirred by some of the issues raised here over the past weeks.
Much is being said about the profile, high or otherwise, of Pagan faiths in regard to those of mainstream faiths, and just how much this should trouble us, stir up our pride, or have us running for the broom cupboard and slamming the door behind us to hide away with our “secret devotions”.
I am not going into any issue of the rights or wrongs of any of that, I merely intend to revisit how I dealt with it all in the past. Sort of an old crone’s refresher course, I guess you could say.
One thing is clear to me; mainstream faiths have become far more vocal in regard to Pagans of any path of late. Some will say this is because we have become more vocal and open about the paths we are on and they are fearful that because much of mankind is becoming more enlightened to things spiritual that are frowned on by mainstream faiths, there is an element of panic amongst the clergy of these faiths that maybe their control is slipping.
I guess that what started all this off for me was when I read the end of year report for my grandson, who will take his all important exams next year. He had just completed his “mocks” and his grades were quite presentable, warm feelings of pride had filled my heart.
That was until I came to his result for Religious Education, which is compulsory as an exam for all students in the UK.
He got a U, which meant he underachieved with a grade of only 15%.
My heart sank at that point as his tutor had added a comment about her set piece named “Thinking about God”, a question of morality and faith and how she thought that if my grandson had paid more attention to it, he MIGHT have achieved a better mark!
How so? I thought. The Christian God has no monopoly on morality, or even faith, as far as I could see, so I sat down with him and asked him for his thoughts on this and why was his grade so low.
This almost sixteen year old gave me a lesson in life that I shall be quite content to carry with me to journey’s end for sure.
First of all, he pointed out that his mother, my dear departed daughter, had taught him and his brothers and sister the basics of ALL faiths when they were very young. She had told him that this was because he would one day have to find his own belief system and if he had a little knowledge of what was there for him to seek, the choices he would make would be a bit easier for him.
She also told him that on his journey through life he would be in peer groups with people of all different faiths and if he was to understand and give respect to those people, then he needed to know a little of what they believed in.
It seems that he told his tutor this and had tried to explain that his traditional family life, caring for other human beings, animals and the planet he shared with them, had helped him form his own morals that had not come from any religious book or God.
He had said to her that he felt it was the responsibility of all human kind to be the best they could be without having to be fearful that some vengeful God would condemn them to a place he did not believe in if they made mistakes along the way. (I assume this was hell, although he never actually said that).
If I can confirm at this point, although the children have been brought up celebrating our Pagan life, most ritual work and magick has been done beyond their sight as it is important to us that all will find their own paths to walk in the future.
I felt quite proud of his answers, but this still did not account for his poor grade in the subject of faiths as he obviously had very adequate knowledge to gain at least an average in the exam.
Probing a little deeper, I asked what his tutor had thought of his answers. Oh, she said I must be a Pagan, like my family, he answered, and with that his demeanor showed me that he had said all he was going to say about it.
Troubled by his answer, I had rung his College the following day and had quite a long conversation with the tutor who had set his work for the exam. She was quite a nice lady, a little pious maybe, but easy enough to talk to. I asked her why she thought my grandson had done so poorly in RE grading and her answer was this.
All children in the UK are required to have knowledge of, and good identification with, all mainstream faiths. I am aware of this I said, although in my schooldays in South Wales we were not required to sit RE as a compulsory subject and I had actually opted out and taken Celtic History and Heritage instead.
Well times have changed said she, all children have to learn about the morals and respect that faith brings to their lives and as teachers we are charged to do that.
Hello, I said, have you found my grandson to be lacking in morality or respect then?
Well no, she said. He is a lovely boy, always cheerful and polite and popular with his peers.
So what was his average mark for his religious study in regard to Paganism, I asked innocently.
After a lengthy hush, she said that only mainstream faiths come into the religious curriculum and that Paganism would be “touched on” in History under the heading of “the Witchcraft purges of Matthew Hopkins, Witchfinder General”.
It was obvious to me that I was going to get nowhere as far as resolving the faith issue with her, so I asked for ways to best help him through this exam next year and ended the call.
But now I am angry!
Religion is a personal choice as far as I am aware. It begins in the home with the parents, when the children are to young to teach themselves. Presumably the parents would also, at this early stage of their child’s development, be teaching them respect, morality and caring.
To make religion compulsory in the classroom takes away the freedom of choice from the child to seek their own truths, and places their future spiritual development in the hands a stranger who may, or may not, have their own religious agenda for the child.
Then I remembered the words of my grandfather many years ago following a census at the end of a decade. He remarked that most people in Britain had marked themselves down as Christians, not because they practiced the faith, or even knew anything much about it, but because they lived in a “Christian” country.
Of course censuses have changed since that day of his remarks long ago, as now we have “diversity” of faiths and cultures, so I think if the actual practicing Christians only were to register their faith, they would in fact be in the minority to Islam, with most of their devotees being active and practicing in their faith and happy to have that fact known on the census.
Pagans must be reluctant to register it seems, as their numbers on census bear no reflection to the estimates put out by various Pagan organizations and groups in the UK.
But enough of all that! My aim in these early hours is to revisit my dealings with these issues. Were they any different in my youth? Well, yes they were!
Time marches on, changing at a rapid rate, as it does. Same issues for sure, but the way I dealt with them then, would not be the way I would do it as a sixteen year old today.
Following the repeal of the Witchcraft Act in the 1950’s, Pagans banged open the doors of the broom cupboard with their new freedom to see, and be seen on, their path for knowledge and enlightenment.
Some turned to ancient books in well stocked libraries, they formed their covens, were unafraid to be seen as “strange or weird” by cynics of their beliefs, they followed their own rules, making a lot of them up as they went along, I have to accept.
All that was good, but what really mattered was that even if they were subjected to ridicule and scorn for those beliefs, there was now no law saying that they were committing a crime for believing or following them!
There should have been a lot of “bridge building” done at that crucial time, however. I guess that Pagans were so wrapped up with their joy of decriminalization that they marginalized themselves into their own communities, taking their knowledge, wisdom, ritual and celebrations back under cover.
Of course this had left other faiths free to peddle the “evil” and “demonic” aspects that they have used to denigrate Pagan faiths since times long past.
Had we tried to engage in debate with these faiths at the point of decriminalization, then understanding and respect may have followed, but those who could have done that, those with the skills to put the case over from a point of theological knowledge, took the view that they needed no acceptance, or even respect from other faiths, for their faiths and beliefs.
It is a fact that the majority of people will fear that which they have no understanding or knowledge of; so here was a missed chance to invite questions.
I also think we lacked a good “orator”, which may sound strange, but put together with the power of the spoken word we could have made a very good case for our inclusion into the “exclusive club” of mainstream faiths.
The Christians claim that Jesus needed no Church in his lifetime, to preach his messages to the multitudes he just climbed a mountain or had gatherings in safe places.
Makes sense to me really, I would have valued someone with good communication skills coming to a mountain or field near to my home, to bring me a message of hope and inspiration as my shaky feet set out on my Pagan path.
It would have saved me a long journey one wet weekend when I was 16, to Glastonbury from my home in Wales, to listen to a witch with the most wonderfully inspiring voice, speak to us about Goddess Devotion.
All faiths need figureheads, human beings of deeper enlightenment than others; many have crossed my path in my sixty plus years who could, and should, have tried to fill these roles.
I fear that many of us, however, will not see that happen before we head off for the blessed peace of the Summerlands.
So where is the sixteen year old Pagan at today? Is he/she any more open and honest in faith and belief than I was in the 1950’s?
Well, from all the essays I read on here from these young ones, I would say that their knowledge base of their faiths is much more solid than mine was back then.
They are certainly more vocal and visible than we were, winning their arguments in education and law, but are we any more “accepted” because of that?
They have the Internet now, a valuable source of information and communication, as opposed to the “grapevine” information source that was available to us back then.
I to have found my very best inspirations from the Internet, namely Mike Nichols Witches Sabbats site and this site with Wren’s wonderful format for news and information. Two inspirational people who would have made good orators and figureheads for Pagan faiths, I feel. How I wish they had been based here in the UK when I was 16 for sure, and coming to a hill or field near me!
I can’t get my head around the Christian/Wiccan thing, the two are not the same whichever way I try to look at it and it doesn’t make sense to me, but I wish those who happily walk this path, every joy on their journey.
Nor am I happy to keep bleating on about who plundered what belief from whom, and why they did this. Its stale, negative and I find it to tiresome for this old mind to cope with these days.
It seems to me that our “clergy” should have been arguing these points way back when, not complaining now when all the mud that has been slung, has stuck like tacky glue.
Better now, I would think, to seek to bring Paganism into the Interfaith club and break down the barriers and prejudices that have been built up about us, from the centre, and not by standing on the fringes complaining.
Temples are good focal points for devotional celebrations, but please let us not forget about gatherings for times when inspiration is needed to feed the hungry soul and may all you good people with the skills of communication find time to spare to lift a seeker with shaky feet, back on to firmer ground again.
Remember always the power of the spoken word!
There will always be a hill or field near you and good strong words need no amplification, only the sound of the speakers voice ringing out on the wind, with feeling for those who listen.
I can’t say I enjoyed revisiting these issues from my past, but I am glad that I was pulled from my sleep to do so. The joy in gaining legality to follow my beliefs was somewhat lessened by the lack of will, or inclination, to be taken seriously by mainstream faiths.
Will we look back with regret for that ?…
I guess so, for sure we missed a main chance situation way back then. But that time is done, a memory on the path that I had supposedly made sure to leave in the shadows of a journey in progress at that time.
However, my meditation sent me swirling back there for a reason, and it had to be a good one to keep me out of my bed at this hour of the morning. Maybe it really has been an old crone’s refresher course (lol), or just maybe the reason is that these young and enlightened ones are raising the energy levels of those of us who have felt a little weary of late, and are forcing us to examine where we went wrong way back then.
All this debate will continue long after my demise for sure, but at this time we have to make our best efforts to break the monopoly of mainstream faiths to claims that morality, respect and clean living is only to be found amongst their followers.
They can still get away with calling us “evil, weird etc, with no fear of redress, but you try even thinking that about a Muslim or Christian and the “thought police” will be at the door at the speed of light. Most just play lip service to the law of civil rights when it comes to us.
And how are we supposed to debate anyway, if things we may have to say are “uncomfortable or offensive” to every other belief system but our own?
Who defines these words as offensive, following what guidelines? Yes we gained legality, but did we then lose the plot by not maximizing our chances to be transparent and vocal about our beliefs? I guess that the jury was out on that one long ago and it could be that a good case was made for “could have done so much better”!
I have now made a decision not to address this issue from my past ever again. My progression on the smoother and more contented path of my advancing years will now be spent thinking about all that gives me joy in my beliefs, and I feel good about that, knowing that far younger and stronger souls have picked up the banner bearing our beliefs and will move forward in a determined manner to set it down in its rightful place, in the fullness of time.
That it will not happen in my lifetime seems unimportant now…. what really matters is that somewhere, someday, a great orator will stand out from the masses and stir up the cauldron of pride and passion until it boils.
As the curtains of prejudice, dogma and mistrust fall away, the light and energy we are so capable of giving out will bathe the earth and its inhabitants with the peace, cleansing and healing that should be the aim of every single one of us, whatever our faith or belief.
Maybe this is why sleep was pulled from my eyes … to be replaced by a vision of what is to be! It can be … so there fore is, they say!! I truly believe that it will be so.
As I go to crawl up the stairs to my room, I feel less tired than when I sat down at the pc earlier. I wish all you good souls a restful nights sleep, may you always love and laugh, dance, sing and play, in good health and happiness and may we all