The Top 5 Things Your Local Witch Wants You to Know
Author: Holly Risingstar
I am a fairly ordinary woman. I’m in my early thirties; I have a Master’s Degree in Counseling Services; I work with families in crisis. I’ve got two kids, a husband, and family nearby; I love the arts, shopping, beadwork, travel, and photography. I’m addicted to the Grey’s Anatomy and Heroes. I drive a black Honda that has seen better days. I wish gas prices would go down. I’m in desperate need of a haircut.
Oh, and did I mention, I’m a witch?
I was born into a nominally Jewish family and had five years’ worth of Hebrew school growing up, but it never felt right to me. I never felt connected, spiritually, to God. By the time I was hitting my teens, I had started to read more and more about the occult, and finally came across Scott Cunningham’s book Wicca: a Guide for the Solitary Practitioner (considered by many to be the best introductory book on Wicca there is). Finally, I Got It. Something inside me knew this was my path, where I was supposed to be and what I was supposed to be doing. I’ve been Wiccan for 17 years now, and I’ve never looked back.
Wicca is an earth-based, non-Judeo-Christian religion. The modern form was created from various pieces of pagan religion by Gerald Gardner in the 1930s, but from there has exploded into a rainbow of traditions, each with its own particular blend of magic, faith, and morals. Wicca is a legally recognized religion in the U.S and you can even have it imprinted on your dog tags in the Armed Forces. It is often cited as being the fastest-growing religion in the country.
When asked to write this piece on Wicca, I considered carefully what I might want to say. Should I launch into a defense of my beliefs? Normalize Wicca with other religions? Simply compare and contrast? Deliver an anecdotal “Day in the Life of a Witch” kind of thing?
I settled on this:
THE TOP FIVE THINGS YOUR LOCAL WITCH WOULD WANT YOU TO KNOW ABOUT WICCA
1.We are not Satanists.
You heard it here first! Wicca does not subscribe to a Judeo-Christian belief in God; therefore, we don’t believe in a Devil, Hell, or Heaven. Wiccans revere nature and treat the Mother Earth with great respect. Many (though not all) of us believe in some aspect of the Goddess; many also believe in some form of the God, Her consort.
The most common belief system involves the Triple Goddess; a Mother Goddess, symbolized by the moon, who watches over mothers and children, family and all matters pertaining to that phase of a woman’s life; a Maiden Goddess, who reigns over joy, youth, vitality, freedom, and so on; and a Crone Goddess, who holds the secrets of magic and is the Guardian of the Crossroads (in other words, a death-related Goddess. Not one who causes death, mind, but who assists those who are in this stage of existence.)
Often the Goddess has a God consort, symbolized by the Sun, who is her lover and assists her with Creation of all things. Often he is associated with forests, certain animals, and a vast variety of human experiences ranging from sex to war to creativity. One of the great joys of Wicca is the ability to choose which Goddesses and Gods have meaning and connection for you – though they’ve been known to choose the practitioner!
2.We have one law – An It Harm None, So Mote It Be.
Which means don’t harm anyone, including yourself. Sounds fairly simple, right? Not so easy. It’s a tough moral code to live by. We cannot, in good conscience, take revenge, cause harm, or cause another person problems on purpose. No killing, no stealing, respecting other human beings – sound familiar?
3.You probably know one of us.
Wiccans (and pagans of all flavors) are everywhere. We come from all walks of life; nurses, doctors, teachers, lawyers, convenience store clerks, computer programmers, business owners, you name it. We are not necessarily the odd chick down the street with the long hippie skirts and twelve cats. . .ok, well, she might be one of us.
We have our share of hippies, vegans, Goths, and assorted subcultures. But you won’t necessarily know us just looking at us – most people I tell about my religious leanings are surprised. As a co-worker (and devout Christian) recently said to me, “I was so surprised that you are – you know, what you are. I kept saying, “How can Holly be a heathen? She’s so nice!”
4.Yes, we do cast spells.
It’s very similar to praying. Spell casting simply means using rituals to help bring about a desired outcome; no more, no less. A conscientious witch never casts on another human being without that person’s consent and full knowledge, and she won’t do it for money, if she’s the real deal. Witches try never to violate another person’s free will. There are no big flashes like in the movies; I can’t fly, float, or make things disappear (though there’s a shot if I put it on my desk!), and lightning has certainly never flown out of my fingertips.
What I can do is help protect, heal, bring about some occurrences (like employment or good legal results), marry couples and bless children, and things of that nature. I do not hex, curse, or cause harm through magic. It’s not cool with the Goddess.
5.You may have participated in a Wiccan or Pagan tradition.
We have holidays, creation myths, and rituals just like any other religion.
Wiccans generally celebrate eight high holidays: Samhain (pronounced so-when) on October 31st is one of them. That jack o’lantern on your porch? Started out as turnips, decorated to keep away evil spirits. Next comes Yule, the Winter Solstice, on December 21st – and if you have a Christmas tree, know that it started as the use of evergreen to symbolize life and rebirth in Roman and Druidic rituals.
Following are Candlemas on February 2nd, which celebrates the lambing of the ewes and the returning spring; Litha, the spring equinox, on March 21st; Beltane on May 1st, which celebrates life, generativity, and is where the Maypole comes from (you are dancing around a phallus to make the fields fruitful, folks!) Next, the Summer Solstice on June 21st, then Lammas on August 2nd, which celebrates the height of summer.
Lastly we have Mabon, the autumnal equinox, which ends the cycle of growth and prepares us for Samhain and the winter to come. We also celebrate and worship on the night of the full moon; we may also celebrate life events like births, weddings, maturation of our children, and death. In this way we remain close to the cycles of the earth, never forgetting who we are and what is happening in the world around us.
Wicca and Paganism are rapidly becoming mainstreamed. Your local bookstore probably has a decent-sized section on Metaphysical Studies, and you’ll find plenty on the religion there.
We have our own magazines, hundreds of websites, bumper stickers, T-shirts, music, and so on. Being Wiccan or Pagan does not necessarily mean we’re strange; it means that we have a different belief system than the general American public.
If you run across a Wiccan or a Pagan, don’t be afraid to ask us questions. We won’t come to you, but if you ask we’re generally happy to share what we know with others. Most witches are delighted to have a chance to combat the stereotyping and misconceptions the public has of us.
When we part, Wiccans often say, “Blessed Be.” And so I’ll leave you with a Blessed Be – merry met, merry part, and merry meet again.
Previously published in a Mensa newsletter.