Witches and Wiccans: A New Take on the Great Debate

Witches and Wiccans: A New Take on the Great Debate

Author: Taryn Anu

Wicca and Witchcraft are by nature surrounded by myths and misconceptions, and though we often try to clear up such misconceptions, there are some issues upon which even we in the pagan community cannot agree. “The Great Debate, ” as those like myself jokingly call it, is one such matter that is at a stand still. In The Wicca Handbook by Eileen Holland, published in 2000, she states, “All Wiccans are witches, but not all witches are Wiccan.” This statement is based on the assumption that all Wiccans must practice witchcraft in their worship, but that witchcraft can be practiced without the moral code or spiritual purpose of Wicca.

However, in The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Wicca and Witchcraft Third Edition, published in 2006, writers Denise Zimmermann and Katherine A. Gleason, along with reviser Miria Liguana, state that “Not all Wiccans are witches, and not all witches are Wiccans, but a lot of them are.”

Instantly there is a giant rift formed between subscribers to either idea. At first glance, one could easily say that it must be a matter of opinion. I would say that is untrue, though to prove my point entails a little bit of research.

First, we will begin by addressing the simplest issues. What is Wicca? What is a witch? According to The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Wicca and Witchcraft, a witch is someone who uses magic in everyday life, and Wicca is an earth based religion that honors both the God and the Goddess. Of course, these definitions can be expanded upon, but to do so would mean going further down the path of exploration, which makes identifying their differences more difficult as paths diverge and converge. So, we’re just going to stick with the barest forms of each. In other words, what makes you either a witch or not, a Wiccan or not.

Next, let’s take a look at what practicing Wicca entails. Some say that by engaging in Wiccan ritual you are practicing magic and therefore by default must also be a witch. However, ceremony is not witchcraft. Most, if not all, religions hold firmly to some type of ceremony. This does not translate to witchcraft or spell craft. So what separates ritual from witchcraft? In order to better understand exactly what Wiccans use in everyday practice, we must delve further in its basic examination.

Let’s examine what ritual is in its most basic form. Wiccans rely heavily on the use of rituals in their daily lives and worship. “Ritual”, by definition from The American Heritage Dictionary is: 1. The prescribed form of a ceremony, 2. A system of ceremonies or rites, 3. A ceremonial act or a series of such acts, 4. A customary or regular procedure. Nowhere in this definition of there mention of witchcraft or spell craft. In fact, there is not mention of anything remotely linked to witches at all.

Now, the definition from the same dictionary for witchcraft is magic and sorcery, and we have established from The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Wicca and Witchcraft that a witch is someone who uses magic in everyday life. So, in their more basic definitions we have already found that witchcraft and ritual are different.

Let us take a look at Wicca. The great debate revolves around Wiccans by default practicing witchcraft. So, in order for us to get a clear view of the issue, we must look at the cornerstone of all Wicca, the Rede. Of course, varying traditions and paths of Wicca have evolved to be more extensive than the Rede. However, it remains the indisputable separator of Wicca from other pagan paths, and in order to follow Wicca in any of its eclectic forms, one must subscribe to the Rede’s laws. Looking closely at the Rede, we find beautiful poetry mixed with wise words as in verse two, “Live an’ let live / fairly take an’ fairly give, ” that not only give us advice but also offer simple instruction on practicing as a Wiccan. Never take without giving back, and take only what you need. Live and let all other life live.

There also seems to be other more extensive verses on how to practice Wicca, examples being verse six through thirteen. In verse twenty-three the Threefold Law is spoken of, akin to Karma, and in verse three one is instructed to cast a circle three times to keep evil out. The only verse that could even remotely be labeled as magic is three, but as we’ve established, that does not necessarily mean magic is involved. Casting a circle is simply a ritual in which magic can be included. The Rede also states that to bind a spell one must speak it in rhyme, but I believe this is to advise Wiccans on spell casting should they choose to use this type of magick in their work.

Finally, I’ve demonstrated that nowhere in the practice of Wicca is there a mandate that magic must be used, but before we can completely solve this debate, we must examine what is magic. Again, let us look at the definition of the word. Using The American Heritage Dictionary we learn that magic is the art that purports to control or forecast natural events, effects, or forces by invoking the supernatural through the use of charms, spells, or rituals. Immediately, one could claim that said invocations using ritual constitutes magic, but as I stated before, many religions use ritual in their practice. That fact combined with the definition of ritual boiling down to a ceremony or series of ceremonies shows conclusively that just because magic is used in ritual doesn’t mean that a ritual must be exclusively magic.

At last, we can apply our gathered logic to our original issue. I have proven that (using the law that to be Wiccan in its simplest form means one must follow the Wiccan Rede) Wiccans must perform some type of ritual in their worship. I have also proven that witchcraft is the active practice of magic, which can be explained spiritually as the manipulation of energy or by definition as the purported control on forces through charms, spells, or ritual. However, going back to the basic definition of a ritual demonstrates how ritual does not have to include the practice of magic. In fact, most consider ritual to be more of a celebration of your spiritual path rather than manipulating energies. (Stay with me!) Applying the same logic to Wicca shows beyond a shadow of a doubt that to be Wiccan means engaging in some sort of ritual but not necessarily magic.

There are those who will claim that the origins and meanings of the words “Wicca” and “witch” change everything I have just presented. At this point, though, I don’t think the words’ origins matter. We are not talking about the practicing differences or similarities of our predecessor witches and Wiccans. The meanings of words change over time, so it is the modern context with which we should be concerned. I know much of following any pagan path is remembering and holding true to its roots, but I firmly believe in the evolution of religion. Not to mention that Wicca is not even an ancient religion at all, no matter where its roots come from (but that is another article for another time) .

The Goddess has had many names and faces over the centuries, after all. Too often do we cling to the past because we are afraid of the future. So what if Wicca and witchcraft were once one and the same? So what if they have evolved into two different practices? So what if Wicca is a modern, fairly young religion with really no ancient roots and often categorized as New Age?

So what?

We need to accept that our religions, our words, and their meanings are constantly changing. Why fight to stubbornly stay constant when all one has to do is experience the Wheel of the Year or look back at the history of nature to see that the world and everything in it is far from unchanging? Wicca is about spirituality and a journey along the path. Whether you perform magick in the sense of witchcraft or simply religious rituals to celebrate your spirituality, the journey is yours all the same. We should embrace all the things that make what we each do unique, rather than fighting to lump them all together.

So celebrate yourself if you are a Witch and a Wiccan, and celebrate yourself if you’re simply a Witch, and celebrate yourself if you sorely practice Wicca! Celebrate just because you’re on that journey, and revel in all the similarities and differences we share!

Musings of a Grizzled Warrior

Musings of a Grizzled Warrior

Author: Ursa

I am the center of my universe. This is not to say I am the center of the universe, for in that world, I am but a speck of the corner of a mote in the eye of the Gods! Nevertheless, in my universe, I reign supreme. I have many roles to play in my world… many hats to wear. Some are magnificent and splendorous, others much simpler and less ostentatious. Some are in perfect condition, some in need of various repairs, and yet others still are threadbare, worn and in need of either retirement as nostalgic keepsakes, or outright discarding as needless rubbish.

As center and ruler of my universe, one of those hats is an exceptionally sumptuous High Lord’s crown. It sparkles, it shines in veritable luminescence, and it is made of magical precious white gold most definitely passes the “10-foot rule”. However, perceptions are not necessarily reality, and even my perceptions can be suspect. The jewels encrusted in this crown are those ethical and moral values that are precious to me and thus held sacrosanct. The issues arise in the realization that I am no jeweler.

To my eye, the sparkling deep cobalt blue sapphires of honour, the blood red rubies of love, the majestic royal purple amethysts of thought and communication, the rich lucent pearls of wisdom, and the hotly sparkling clear diamonds of truth are all very genuine precious stones. The crown itself is also constructed of the purest alloys and functions as the framework upon which these baubles rest and the means of which we attach it to our physical bodies. I would call this the crown of our spirit, our consciousness, our soul, if you will. It rests there atop the physical clay of our persons for all to see. In addition, no matter how hard one may try to enshroud that crown by means of a cloaked subterfuge or attempt to sequester it away behind vaulted triple locked doors of secrecy, glimpses and peeks will reveal that hat for any to see who are actively aware of surroundings beyond the reach of their own nose.

It is only through unbiased, unemotional introspection and discussion with genuinely honest individuals for whom we care and highly regard that those gems can come under exacting scrutiny using a jeweler’s loupe. Moreover, it is only through this process by which the difference between authentic gems and mere coloured glass or manufactured synthetic frauds can be determined. When correctly used, this process can discern imperfections and flaws as well. This holds true not only for the precious stones in the crown, but also for the metal of the crown itself. It is how we can determine the alloy content, the homogenous blending of those alloys, the purity of the individual metals, or even if it is strictly cosmetic plating over a base metal.

It takes true courage to honestly assess the value of our crowns of our crowns, for we must overcome the fear of both destroying it, and discovering its value may be far less than what we think or even hope it to be. However, courage is the only currency accepted in this particular market. If you are too frugal with it, all you will be able to hire for the task are sycophants who care more about separating you from your coin while laughing behind their sleeve at a fool as they tell you what you want to hear in hopes of more payment. Nonetheless, what we do with that assessment is entirely up to ourselves. We can use it for our betterment or our detriment.

Many people are sufficiently satisfied knowing they wear a shiny hat with sparkly gems caring not one whit if the materials used are real or frauds; they are just ignorant of such details and content with that superficial knowledge. Some would stop after just such a thorough inventory and evaluation, and marvel at its stated value; having no difficulty in announcing to all who will listen the price tag of their crown and thereby determine their own self-worth in the comparison and contrast of the monetary value with the crowns of those surrounding them. Sadly, this leads to several devastating results. On one end of the spectrum, there is a constant dissatisfaction with what they own and an unfulfilled ravenous desire to out shine those whose crowns have greater value, thus thinking this will make them the superior person. At best, this is the basis for unrequited and unnecessary internal strife. At the other end of the spectrum, this person’s personal outlook either sets the stage for covetous behavior, or the attempt, successful or not, to steal or destroy another person’s crown.

Then we find yet another category of person. They too take lock, stock, and inventory of their crown, but rather than focus solely on the monetary value of the crown and gems as the end state, they use this value as a measuring device of self-improvement. Their goal is neither to impress themselves, nor those they encounter. Instead of seeking outward approval, they are true connoisseurs and avid collectors with an appreciation to finding beauty and value where and when they may encounter it. What is more paradoxically amusing is, the perfection for which they strive is not incumbent upon a perfectly symmetrical final product that so many may feel is the most aesthetically pleasing to the untrained eye.

The best way to explain this seeming contradiction of terms is to recall the tale of The Perfect Heart. In this analogy, a young man stands before the people of his village boasting how he held before all to see the strongest and most perfect heart. It bore no scars or blemishes and beat with the strength of a Percheron within. All within view gawked in amazement, for their hearts seemed lacking in compare. All, that is, except for an old grizzled man in the back who scoffed at the claim made by the youth. Instead, he countered that his was the more perfect heart by far. Being thus challenged, the youth demanded the old man come forward and put his claim to the test. When the old man came forward, in his hand was a mangled hodge-podge of mismatched pieces, scars, and even gaping holes where pieces were missing.

The youth and all the villagers scornfully laughed at the old man’s claim and demanded he retract his obviously false claim, but the old man remained steadfast. With a warm smile and gentle voice he explained the hodge-podge of parts were in reality the portions of other’s hearts freely and lovingly given in exchange for pieces of his own heart. The places were parts were missing were places where he had freely given of his own heart, but others failed to reciprocate. And the scars were from times, whether intentionally imposed or not, he suffered and overcame grief and various heartaches he endured through life.

The youth paused for a while as the import of what the old man said began to sink in. As understanding of the lesson he was being taught fully took hold, the young man was moved to tears. He paused, hugged the old man, and then freely tore a piece of his own once-thought perfect heart and offered it in exchange for a part of the old man’s. The grizzled elder smiled broadly, accepted the exchange, and they both walked away arm in arm; the youth realizing he was only beginning his quest to create a more perfect heart.

The tools and the understanding are there to be had for any and all who would but reach out and use them. It is how we use them and what we do with that understanding which sets us each on our own respective paths to the betterment or detriment of us all.

Ursa

Meditation Tip for 2/21

Monday 21 February 2011

Don’t judge yourself.
Accept responsibility for all
that you are involved in,
for all that happens to you.
If you don’t like what is happening to you,
begin to ask yourself
why you create things that you don’t like.

B. Marciniak

Law of Attraction – Attracting Positives

Law of Attraction – Attracting Positives

Breaking the Habit of Attracting Negatives

By Phylameana lila Desy, About.com Guide

There is a trick to the Law of Attraction1. This trick is not really as magical as one might imagine. We attract the things that we focus on. When we focus on not having enough that thought form supports the “lack of” we routinely experience.

We are forever reminded to use affirmations2 and to keep our thoughts positive but Feeling Sorry for Myself continues to be the mantra of many people.

Sick of the n’ts in Your Vocabulary?

We are bombarded with repetitive negative phrases in our thinking such as I just can’t get ahead, I couldn’t dodge the bullet, I won’t be the winner, I don’t have enough, etc. etc. Are you guilty of continuously repeating negatives either in thoughts or words? Is your negative mind set pretty much representative of your current life situation? If your answer is YES, then Congratulations! You are living proof that the law of attraction works. You are a champion at attracting negatives.

Breaking the Habit of Attracting Negatives

Why do we focus on our illnesses, our low-paying jobs, and our less than fulfilling relationships? We do so out of habit. Breaking the “attracting negatives” habit, just like any other bad habit will take some effort on your part. Especially so, if you have been dwelling on the negatives for years. Your parents might have taught you this behavior by being the role model of “criticism” or “negative language.” If this is so, then they are likely mirroring behavior they learned from their parents, and so on back through the generations. Isn’t it time to break this negative cycle?…. urr rather, in postitive terms — IT IS time to break the cycle.

I too struggle with “negatives” in my life. I sometimes think Worry Wart has taken up permanent lodging in my guest room. I should say “unwelcome” guest room. Unwelcome guests in your life may be Unlucky Lucy, Loser Larry or Barb Bites. I’m certain you can name others. But let’s not! Let’s turn our negatives into positives and begin attracting welcome guests such as Lucky Lonnie, Smart Sam, and Happy Harriet. A simple way that you can put materializing positives into motion is to busy your hands with creating positive images for your eyes/mind to focus on.

Attracting Positives

Several years ago I created my first manifesting scrapbook. I filled the pages with affirmations and clippings of pictures that depicited the things that I wished to have materialize into my life. I spent about a week creating the various pages in the book. Then I put the book away on my bookshelf and basically forgot about it. About six months later my daughter gave me a butterfly wind chime on my birthday. Another friend of mine stopped by with an angel candle holder. Neither my friend, nor my daughter knew about my manifestation book. I had never told my daughter that I wanted a new wind chime for our back portch, let alone that I had pasted a similar butterfly wind chime in my wish book. But, sure enough, both items (wind chime and angel) were pasted in the scrapbook. The items were not exactly the same but pretty darn close. Amazing. That’s when I started pasting more and more stuff that I wanted into my manifesting scrapbook.

Creating Your Own Manifesting Scrapbook3

The instructions for creating your very own manifesting book are very basic. Choose affirmative words and colorful pictures clipped from magazines. Your words and images will tell stories about what you cherish most about your life. You will also want to include the things which you wish to attract into your life. Create as many pages as you like in your manifestation scrapbook. Be sure to include photos of friends, pets, and family. Supplies needed are simple: scissors, paper, glue, magazine clippings, and favorite photos. This art project is a fun way to focus on the things that bring you joy, wellness, prosperity, and more. View sample pages for your manifesting picture book4.

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