Like Attracts Like
When we practice sympathetic magic, the principle of “like attracts like” is the foundation we build on to get results. So why wouldn’t we apply that principle of sympathetic magic to our relationships? In this context, I think we are primarily talking about the difference between a Christian and a Wiccan partner. Since Christianity is the majority religion in this country, and Wicca is the largest of all the Pagan religions, these two religions will turn up most frequently in the discussion of difficulties about mixed faith marriages. These are also the two in which I have experience.
Interfaith relationships can be more difficult for Wiccans and other Pagans, for the simple reason that, to begin with, we are only a small portion of the whole society. That means that our pool of available partners is smaller, yet the challenges of forming a lasting relationship are the same challenges that everyone else faces. Even so, as a person who was committed to his path before he got married, I had a non-negotiable requirement that my wife also had to be Wiccan. My wife and I had a handfasting ritual with just our coven members present, and then the following year had a legal marriage for tax purposes. We now lead our coven together.
Prior to this, I had two live-in relationships with other women, but in both cases, those women were unwilling to embrace Wicca as their spiritual path, even though they were intellectually curious about it, and liked various aspects of its philosophy. In both cases, when the discussion revealed this important stumbling block, those relationships ended.
My observation of fellow coven members reveals a few distinct patterns when we look at people who are part of a mixed faith couple. On the one hand there are those who have a partner who just does not care what they do, and those members attend meetings and rituals, in some cases, for years. Their partners do not want to join, but they will not interfere. On the other hand, there are those whose partners actively oppose it. That usually forces them to drop out. Sometimes the partner’s opposition takes subtle forms, like insisting that a family vacation or visit with relatives be scheduled at exactly the same time as a sabbat, even though we set the schedule of sabbat dates at the beginning of each year for the next eight turns of the wheel. Or they repeatedly create some minor crisis that demands attention, just when their spouse is heading for a coven meeting.
Sometimes the opposition is more overt. In one case, a female student who was eager to learn and readily understood and embraced the practice came to me one evening after a class and told me that her husband was unhappy with the fact that she was studying Wicca. She asked me to meet with him. I did, and answered all of his questions. They were the typical Christian misconceptions. No matter what I said, he still felt that he and his wife were doomed to hell if he let her go on with this. I never heard from her again after that.
Then there was a male student whose wife was a Christian who objected to his practice. He continued to come to all the meetings and rituals anyway, over her objections. However, she kept the pressure up. She forbid him to do any rituals of his own at home or display any tools, art or other signs of his path. So he had to stay in the closet in his own home, even though he owned half of it. Eventually, the pressure from his wife caused him to drop out of the coven.
I absolutely cannot conceive of a spouse or partner forbidding me to practice the religion of my choice. This is as legitimate a grounds for divorce as any other I can name. I have known some people who did divorce as their commitment to Wicca became stronger and the Christian partner continued to object.
There is one other option which can also occur. If a couple has no particularly strong religious affiliation and one partner takes up the practice of Wicca and the other partner is favorably impressed with what they see, they may begin asking to discuss the subject or ask to observe or participate in a ritual or working of some kind. If they have a favorable experience and become more intrigued, the other partner could decide that they are also interested and they become a couple who practices together. The power of attraction will only have a chance to work though, if the other partner is open minded and willing to consider something new. I have never seen a case where the other partner is adamantly opposed to Wicca and suddenly has a change of mind and decides that they will give up their previous religion to take up Wicca. The percentage of Americans who say they are Christian when they are responding to a survey but do not regularly attend a church are the portion of the population where this scenario would most likely occur.
Given that the majority culture is Christian, many of us never thought of actively taking up some other religion, even when we were thoroughly burned out on the churches we were raised in, disillusioned with their policies and practices, finding ourselves strongly disagreeing with their philosophy, because we had not seen any other attractive options. So that portion of the population which is nominally Christian, only because they respond that way out of habit, but not actually committed to it, is quite substantial. When I talk to other Wiccans, I find that most of us came from that portion of the population. Only a tiny minority says that their parents were very open-minded about religion and let them try out various churches and spiritual practices without pressuring them. And only now are we beginning to see a younger generation who have grown up with Pagan parents and have been exposed to sabbat circles and gatherings their entire lives.
I have also known several couples who took up the practice together and those who have children include their children in their circles and teach them our ways. In all of these cases, the couples are still together, although I am well aware that Wiccan and Pagan couples also get divorced. I can only go by my own observation, but when I call to mind the couples that practice together, I see lots of the same couples together year after year at gatherings and events, with relatively few who have separated or divorced. Most of the Wiccans I know who have divorced or separated are those where one was Wiccan and the other was Christian. Of course, since we have no reliable statistics on Wiccans and Pagans, we really have no statistical facts about how our marriage and divorce rates match up to the population in general.
Couples who share rituals and activities together have a number of opportunities to bond and build stronger relationships. Think about the joy, heightened awareness and deep resonance we find in doing rituals together, from sabbats to full moons to initiations, handfastings or other rites of passage. How would it feel to come home from one of these events, feeling wonderful and profoundly moved, and share a bed with a partner who couldn’t care less about it?
Practices unique to Pagans, such as sex magic, can help form closer bonds between a couple. Wicca and many other Pagan religions have a culture that embraces a more liberated attitude toward concepts from birth control to handfastings for gays and lesbians to polyamory. That stands in strong contrast to the Christian religions that are officially against birth control, gay marriage, women clergy, and advocate the teaching of abstinence-only sex education.
There are also many other Wiccan ways that can be practiced together. You could study tarot, astrology or healing together. Tend the herb garden together, drum and sing together. You might spend evenings making magical things together, crafting your own incenses, oils, soaps, candles, teas, and other things. You’ve got rituals to do together. Life is very full when you have such an array of common interests and activities.
At the root of this question is the fact that there really are differences in what religious beliefs we choose to embrace. If the Christian spouse is a “Christmas and Easter” sort of Christian who regards their partner’s interest in Wicca as a sort of a hobby on a par with belonging to a book club or tennis league or simply regarding it as the “girls night out” or “boys night out” for their partner, then there will probably be no serious disagreements over the issue of religion. However, if each party really has a strong belief in his or her religion, then there are bound to be irreconcilable differences.
Consider that in order to be a Christian, you have to accept Christ as your savior, but Wiccans don’t believe in saviors. Christians believe that we need to be saved because we are born sinners, but Wiccans don’t believe in sin. Christians believe that immediately after death, we are judged and sent to heaven or hell, whereas Wiccans believe in reincarnation. Christians believe that if they do good things, it is because they are being influenced by God and if they do bad things, they are being influenced by Satan. Wiccans believe that they are always responsible for their own actions. The Christian who insists on referring to God strictly as a male entity will no doubt get arguments from the spouse who worships a Goddess as well as a God. The Christian who is pressured by their church to tithe 10% of their family income will not find agreement from the Wiccan spouse who is used to only paying a modest fee for classes or coven dues. Strong beliefs in these philosophical differences will result in disagreements between partners.
We Wiccans share a desire for loving personal partnerships the same as most other people. You might consider that this is one of the tests the God and Goddess place in our path to see just how dedicated we really are. Some seekers revert to being solitaries and others may even see if other religions or spiritual paths offer greener pastures for finding a partner. Others of us find our partners because we stick with our chosen path and eventually find a suitable mate through dedication and confidence that the God and Goddess will take care of us, even though in some cases, partnerships form rapidly, and in other cases, the right partner takes a long time to manifest, even if we have done a magical ritual for this purpose.
Obviously, just being of the same religion is not enough to make a good match. Just like in the rest of the world, there are other factors. For example, is it important that your mate be a smoker or non-smoker? Vegetarian or meat eater? Gardener? Drummer? Musician? Have lots of pets? Or not? Into body piercings and tattoos? Or not? Into science fiction and fantasy? Or do you prefer history, folklore and archeology? Looking for someone to raise children with? Or not? Do you follow an eclectic path? Or a more narrowly defined one? Monogamous or polyamorous? Some of the factors I have just mentioned, as well as others too numerous to mention, may turn out to be a deciding factor in how successful or long term your relationship will be.
So where would a single Wiccan or Pagan meet a suitable partner? Associating with kindred spirits would be the logical place to start. In a coven, at a regional gathering or at open Pagan events. Websites like Witchvox offer opportunities for individuals to make introductions through e-mail which could lead to personal meetings and courtship.
When people have been working together for several months or a year in the context of a magical community, they will usually discuss important philosophical ideas that inform their outlook on life. They have been experimenting together with energy work; discussing personal matters as they progress; they have been working closely together to learn divination, meditation, healing, herbalism, magic, ritual and music. Attractions can, and frequently do, develop between people in a group through these common interests and sharing of personal experiences.
If you stop and think about it for a moment, isn’t that what most people seek in a relationship in the first place? Don’t most people want to share their lives with others who have common interests?
If we have evolved from the person we were when we got married and have adapted different sets of ideas, beliefs and practices while our partner refuses to change, isn’t that a good reason to divorce and seek a partner who does share more of these important aspects of life with us?
Love among Wiccans and Pagans can be very challenging, because first we have to find each other, then once we find each other, we have some of the same problems to work through as everyone else. But for those who are able to get this far and use the beauty and power of magic to strengthen their ties, the love between two Wiccans or Pagans can be very special, bringing a depth and dimension to their relationship that is highly charged, sensuous, erotic, mystical and life-affirming.
Wicca is a religion that has its ceremonies led jointly by a man and a woman. So when a man and woman who are attracted to each other physically, mentally and emotionally begin acting as priest and priestess together, a finishing touch is put on their relationship that reinforces all the other aspects of it.
In a religion where the Charge of the Goddess says that “all acts of love and pleasure are my rituals” and where sex can be part of your magic together, it is easier to find ways to increase the closeness and the passion between a couple than in religions that harp on sin and repentance as guidelines. There are Christians who believe that sexual pleasure should be reserved only for married people trying to make babies. This is a substantial difference of opinion.
Yes, it is definitely my experience that a couple that shares the same religion has a much better chance of having a long-lasting relationship. When both people in a relationship share the same religious beliefs and practices, that alone will not guarantee a long and successful partnership, but it certainly removes a substantial stumbling block and opens the way for greater cooperation and understanding on other issues of mutual concern, such as career, health, family and financial matters.