‘THINK on THESE THINGS’ for January 6th

‘THINK on THESE THINGS’

By Joyce Sequichie Hifler

Think on pleasant things. Deliberately turn your thoughts to something pleasant when the pressures are too intense. And be careful as undisciplined thought quickly sifts back to the unhappy, unsettled mind.

The greater part of the time we are victims of our emotions. They play havoc with our peace of mind and are great friends of pessimism. They tell us things are true with such sincerity that we believe them into fact. They convince us things are a certain way and that we cannot remedy them with any amount of effort.

But stop where you are and consider what it is you are listening to and how it affects your feelings. Do a turnabout and take the positive route of deliberatel

y replacing thoughts of unhappiness, injustices, and misunderstandings with the thought that these are merely chariots to carry us past all that has withheld freedom.

______________________________________

Available online! ‘Cherokee Feast of Days’
By Joyce Sequichie Hifler.

Visit her web site to purchase the wonderful books by Joyce as gifts for yourself or for loved ones……and also for those who don’t have access to the Internet: http://www.hifler.com
Click Here to Buy her books at Amazon.com

Elder’s Meditation of the Day
By White Bison, Inc., an American Indian-owned nonprofit organization. Order their many products from their web site: http://www.whitebison.org

Elder’s Meditation of the Day – January 6

Elder’s Meditation of the Day – January 6

“When we’re through with this earth and all these problems, we don’t have to come back. But as long as we’re here we have a job to do and a purpose to fulfill and that means dealing with the circumstances around us.”

–Rolling Thunder, CHEROKEE

We are put on the earth to participate in life. We have a beautiful mind, we have the ability to pray, we have the ability to change, we have the ability to accept, and we have choices. All things God created are constantly changing. This constant change causes our circumstances to change. Sometimes we say life is difficult. During these times we need to use our tools: the tools of prayer, and the tools of meditation. We are designed to change and live joyfully on this earth. The only requirement for living joyfully is to live according to the laws, principles and values given to us by the Creator.

Great Spirit, give me Your courage today, and guide my footsteps.

January 6 – Daily Feast

January 6 – Daily Feast

Dare to believe in miracles. Look beyond the mud on the windshield, beyond the impossible, and know life is more than anguish and stress. Reach out to someone, when your heart is too heavy to feel the sunlight or to taste the rain. Rid yourself of dark thought and melancholy. Open your mind to fresh air, to the unlimited music in your soul. Thoreau wrote of waking in the night to hear a strain of music dying away – travelers singing. He said his whole being was so expanded and infinitely and divinely related that he knew how narrow his own thinking had been. The Cherokee always teach their young to listen. We hear not the crash of cymbals or the noise that rise the airwaves – but the sweet song of the meadow, the even rhythmic sounds of nature. It is here where the dikanowadidohi angel sings.

~ Speak to yourself in spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord. ~

‘A Cherokee Feast of Days’, by Joyce Sequichie Hifler

Daily Motivator for Jan. 6th – The time it will take

The time it will take

You cannot turn the corner until you get to it. In order to create a  breakthrough, you must lay the groundwork for it.

Real value is built with time, effort and commitment. Don’t cheat yourself  out of that value by demanding instant results.

When you’re moving in a positive direction, enjoy the ride and give it the  time it takes. Even though the fulfillment is not yet complete, you can already  begin to experience it.

Don’t be afraid of the time it will take to make real progress. Be thankful  for the opportunity to make an increasingly valuable difference as time goes  on.

There is great joy to be found in meaningful effort. The longer and more  committed the effort is, the more joy you are able to experience.

Cheerfully give yourself and your work the time it takes. Choose a worthy  destination, and treasure every step of the journey.

— Ralph Marston

The Daily Motivator

The Daily OM for January 6th – An Instant Vacation

An Instant Vacation
Relaxing at Home

by Madisyn Taylor

If you can’t get away on a vacation, turn your home into an instant vacation place.

Throughout our lives, most of us are led to believe that relaxation is best pursued outside of the home. As a result, we spend months anticipating weeklong vacations, seldom fully appreciating the leisure time we are blessed with on a more regular basis. It is possible, however, to reexperience the same

utterly relaxed state you slip into while on holiday within your home’s walls. The feelings of serenity you enjoy during a vacation are a product of your outlook rather than your locale. You give yourself permission to enjoy yourself and unwind while on vacation. Granting yourself the same privilege while at home allows you to experience complete relaxation, even when surrounded by routine.

Our homes can be distracting places as most survival tasks are addressed there. Reviving the tranquility you felt on holiday is as easy as creating an atmosphere that helps you relax. First, divest yourself of the notion that messes must be cleaned up immediately and reaffirm that relaxation is as vital as physical nourishment. Then, set the mood. Music that reminds you of a beloved vacation destination can put you in a vacation mind-set. The exotic flavor of a tropical beverage or the spiciness a favorite ethnic dish can transport you to a more restful mental space. Finally, put aside your projects and commit to doing only what you consider truly pleasurable. Your responsibilities will wait as you put up your feet and revel in peacefulness that comes from within.

If you find it difficult to ignore the temptation to simply fall back into your usual schedule, consider that relaxation should occupy a prominent place on your to-do list. You deserve to take “you time and to care for yourself, even during life’s busy periods. While you may not always be able to get away from it all, you can still nurture yourself and regain your peace of mind.

The Daily OM

Why Insist On Pagan Normalcy?

Why Insist On Pagan Normalcy?

Author:   Rev. Jackson Warlock   

I have never considered myself, as people would say, a “normal” person. To give a little bit of perspective, in the area I live the most common response I get from people upon officially meeting them is something along the lines of “Oh, I recognize you, but I didn’t know from where…” In other words, I look different enough from most of the people around me that people see me and remember my face.

This is not horribly intentional most of the time, but I am simply a recognizable person apparently, simply by virtue of my looks. I do not fit a “Pagan stereotype” as it were… with the exception of my hardly-excessive jewelry… but my point in this opening paragraph is to essentially state that I have been the target of tactics in many of my communities to sweep under the carpet people who society might consider too different to somehow be allowed to speak for the community or even, in some cases, myself.

Why do I bring this up? Well, it appears that (as happens in many movements), there has been a push within the Pagan community to oust members of the community who do not fit into a mold which is “normal” and friendly to non-Pagans.

Well, perhaps “oust” is a strong word, but the point is that people are expected to present in a way which is not too extreme… too Hippie, too Gothic, too New Age, too Radical. And Gods forbid we actually wind up in the newspaper or on TV if we don’t look like some happy little clone of what people think the rest of the world is supposed to look like!

An article showing a picture of a person who doesn’t look like a “normal” person is suddenly accused of stereotyping regardless of the information in the article.

We wouldn’t want the rest of the world thinking we poor oppressed Pagans are (gasp) Goths! Such stereotypes as this are, after all, the reason we are so oppressed in today’s society.

Or are they?

I think it is a huge mistake that in our quest for acceptance we start dictating how others should dress and act to avoid scaring the non-Pagan majority.

Somebody gets told at school that they need to keep their pentagram necklace underneath their clothing and gives some ridiculous explanation about it being a “gang symbol” and suddenly we go off on rampages telling everybody who will listen that “We aren’t all Hippies or Goths or conspiracy theorists!” as if the entire problem was those people in our community who look or act different instead of… you know, years upon years of monotheistic preferential treatment.

Stereotypes are perpetuated not by people who appear to fulfill those stereotypes, but by people who are opposed to the people those stereotypes shallowly represent… just as people do not actually oppose rights for Queer people based on the fact that there are flamboyant gay men out there, people do not actually oppose acceptance for Pagans based on the fact that some of us enjoy Gothic subculture.

That, my friends, is just an excuse… were all of us to look exactly like non-Pagans all of the time, people would still have a hard time accepting us who don’t already… we’d only succeed in keeping quiet and making ourselves invisible.

Now, the stereotype that all Pagans are Goths or all Pagans are Hippies or all Pagans are Ecofeminists or whatever else are all stereotypes, and everybody with a lick of sense knows that. But why on Earth does that mean that the Goths, Hippies, Ecofeminists, New Agers, et al. are the actual problem?

Rather than choose to portray Paganism in all its diversity, we push anybody different under the carpet as if somehow shopping at Hot Topic or having a collection of Dungeons and Dragons figurines automatically makes one an immature Pagan unworthy of representing our community.

Or, if we choose to acknowledge that these people exist and are not bad Pagans for it, we still insist that they not be the ones speaking for us because people might think we are all like that.

Or when talking about stereotypes we make a bigger deal about what we are not than what we are.

We punctuate any mention of our own religions with the strong statement that we are NOT like those teenage Goths who wear huge pentagram jewelry and black clothing or those New Age cooks who don’t shave their legs or whatever other Pagan stereotype one chooses to speak of with disdain at that particular moment.

But at what price?

I know I for one want to fight for acceptance and tolerance on my own terms, not on the terms of those people who quite frankly aren’t going to accept me even if I do act just like them.

If I am going to be accepted for being Pagan I want to be able to do so without acting like something I’m not or something I don’t want to and I’d certainly abhor the idea that fighting for Pagan acceptance somehow means making sure everybody knows “people like me” or “people like them” are a minority.

So why should I expect somebody else to change their clothing style or mannerisms so they don’t fit a stereotype, as if I am arrogant enough to think I know what sort of image they really want or need for themselves?

Why should fighting for my own rights, or anybody’s rights for that manner, involve making cutting remarks on people who look and dress different from society’s norms?

My point is this: We need to just lay off the Goths, the Ren Faire junkies, the New Agers, the Hippies, and everybody else.

It does not matter one bit whether or not I am a member of any of these categories… those people are still a part of my Pagan community, and they do not deserve to be spoken of only in a misguided and useless attempt to prove that I am not them.

Why is There a Rule Against Training People Under 18?

Why is There a Rule Against Training People Under 18?

Author:   Belladonna Laveau APs   

I’ve been training people in the Craft for almost two decades. If someone who comes to me looks very young, the first thing I want to know is their age and whether or not their parents are aware that they’re seeking this training.

Under 18? Your parents don’t know you’re here? Then my answer is always an emphatic “No!”

Invariably, these kids want to know, “why not?” There are many reasons why the vast majority of Wiccans and Pagans will not consent to train anyone under 18 in the Craft, and all of them are established to protect the community, including the person wishing to be trained and the group she or he wants to join.

The biggest reason that we won’t train someone under 18 is related to parental consent. Without parental consent, anyone teaching another religion to a child can be prosecuted under the law. Let’s face it; most parents who aren’t Pagan are strongly opposed to having their child (ren) exposed to witchcraft. On the other hand, parents that aren’t opposed are usually studying it themselves. They’re more than fine with letting their kids learn age appropriate material with them, and do.

Which brings me to reason #2.

I say age appropriate, because we are a fertility religion. That means the act of creation, and the sexual union of God and Goddess is sacred to us, and is the basis of our religion. You can’t ethically teach that until someone is over 18, because it’s confusing AND illegal. We, as a culture, have decided that sex with children is wrong. We, as a society, have decided that the age limit is 18.

We, as a people, made this decision based upon the negative experiences that humanity has encountered when adults have crossed this line. It is an important line, and although all of us mature at slightly different rates, you never know if you’ve crossed that line until AFTER someone is emotionally damaged.

Since, the price of safety is only a couple of years, it is foolish to risk it. RESPECT this rule, because if you do not, you cannot undo the damage after it has been done, and you spend the rest of your life trying to get over it. Besides, impatience is a sure sign that one is not ready for magical training.

Reason #3 – What most academic schools are teaching is actually the foundation upon which magical training is built. To be successful in any field, especially Witchcraft, you need a good understanding of Mathematics, Algebra, Mythology, History, Social Studies, Geography, Science, Literature, how to write a research paper, and grammar. These things are very important to know before you begin studying witchcraft. Without this strong foundation, you will never be able to get past the basics of the craft.

I look at the report cards of new students coming into the seminary who are under the age of 30. Students with bad grades inevitably lack the required skill set needed to perform in a college level setting. Since they’ve not developed the discipline required to learn basic educational concepts, they have a difficult time grasping the more complex concepts that are required to train your brain to move from a linear thinking pattern to a spiral-thinking pattern. Basically, schools are doing FAR MORE to establish the roots of magical training than most people realize!

Reason #4 – Teenagers are really busy “growing up.” Teaching them magical concepts creates more trouble for them. For example, look at the stories of “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch”. She causes herself way more problems with her powers than if she’d just be a regular kid. Notice how it takes advice from someone older and more mature to help her find her way out of the trouble she gets into. Maturing teenagers are learning how to interact as an adult in an adult environment: how to be respectful, honorable, grounded, etc. If you dishonor your training, and there are many ways to do this, you could be dismissed and not allowed to return.

Reason #5 – While most of us who are appropriately trained in the craft try to come from our highest place every moment of every day, there are just as many who are lying about their training and looking for anyone to worship and glorify them as God or Goddess incarnate. These people are hard for adults to identify until after they’ve already been spiritually abused.

It’s impossible for Wicca, as an institution, to protect our youth from these predators, if we allow children to enter training too soon. We do not have many safeguards to protect people seeking craft knowledge, and people get deeply challenged in the best training programs. BEWARE of anyone willing to teach students under 18! Oftentimes these are unethical people who are more interested in amassing students and lording their power over others. These people can do just as much harm as the worst abusive parent, and then you could be spend the rest of your life trying to get over it.

All in all, youth is a very short chapter in our lives. There are times in life when one’s energy is just not conducive to studying witchcraft. The teenage years are one of those times. It’s not that you don’t need the spiritual interaction or ministering, because if you feel you do, you should do something about it. But do it the right way.

Get your parents to take you to a Sabbat celebration and participate in the joy of the craft. Pray to the Goddess, meditate, read mythology, learn to read tarot. The time for formal study will come. It will come when you stop being a member that attends meetings, and start learning how to be the person that leads the meetings.

If you seriously want to study Wicca and become a Priestess or Priest, then properly prepare yourself so you’ll be ready for it when the time comes. Make good grades; take your Literature assignments and writing assignments very seriously. You’ll write a lot as a priest/ess, so you should be able to do it well or people will not respect what you have to say. Learn about our history, because there will be other stories that can’t be found in books that you won’t be able to understand, if you don’t know the historical background.

Take your Mythology, Science and Shakespeare lessons very seriously. Shakespeare (a magical name, btw) was a Priest of the craft who took ritual performance to a new level. That crazy language he wrote in is the language of the Fey. It’s fairy speak. It’s hard to understand at first, but it’s very helpful in making magic. These are things they don’t tell you in school.

The mysteries guard themselves very well.

You are already in magical training, because you’re here on the planet. Magical training has to do with the way you look at your life, and how you respect the magic that is already there. This perspective earns you the right to be exposed to more. When the student is ready the teacher will appear. Make sure you’re ready for formal training, by applying yourself in school, making good grades, learning to be honorable, telling the truth, doing the right thing, and respecting your parents, even if you don’t agree with them sometimes.

Respect the fact that people that are older than you have learned many lessons and are trying to help you avoid the same mistakes. The world is this way because experience teaches us things that youthful optimism doesn’t: human nature is not the same in reality as it is in our heads.

Find the long version of the Wiccan Rede and memorize it. Follow it. It has many mysteries in it. Then, when you’re 18 and you apply for training, you will more likely be accepted. Always remember this extremely important part of the path. It’s JUST like college. You APPLY for magical training; you don’t just show up and expect to get it.

A High Priest or High Priestess has absolutely no obligation to teach you. They can dismiss you from training at any time, and will, if you make the experience of teaching you unpleasant. If you come properly prepared, if you’re humble, respectful, appreciative, and hard working, you will find your place among the Wicca.

Consider your relationships with your parents and current teachers. How do you treat them? Do they find you a joy to teach? Do you turn in homework? Do you listen in class, and read the chapters? Do you take the time to understand why your parents make the decisions they make, or do you just rage against the restrictions? These will tell you where you need to grow.

If you make your life successful as a teenager, you’ll make an excellent witch. Good luck.

Who Inherits Your Knowledge?

Who Inherits Your Knowledge?

Author:   Lady GoldenRaven 

Here is a thought: For us older wytchs, have you ever thought about who you will pass down your wytchy items to when your time comes to cross over? By the time we hit our “golden years”, most of us have amassed a rather large collection of books, articles, herbs, oils, etc. So where does it go?

We have thought about how we divide up the money we leave for our children, which one gets the house and this one gets the car. But, has anyone given thought to the wealth of knowledge we have put into our Book of Shadows?

Who gets the special oils you created? What becomes of the beautiful staff and wand we created with our own hands?

Do we leave our sacred Book of Shadows to our covens?

Is there a special child or friend who will use this information wisely and keep its secrets to themselves?

Has anyone thought of donating them to the military or some other organization?

Will they find their rightful owners or will they end up in the trash or floating around space with all the missing socks.

As I approach my Crone years and since I have taught many students in the ways of the Wise, I have often thought about leaving my stuff to one of them. However, several of my students have been online. It would be hard to leave my trusted Book of Shadows to any of them, since I have only had little contact with them. So, that leaves the students I taught in person, who are now either in my coven or have moved on.

However, I am lucky. I recently met a woman who is 25 years old. She and I have become really close friends. She had several pagan friends (who are also my friends) who had taught her a little bit about their path.

She calls me Mama Beth, since I am older and she can talk to me about things one cannot talk to about with her real parents. Since I have no children of my own, she is now my adopted daughter. She is serious about her learning of the craft, so I am now teaching her my ways.

I thought long and hard about whom would be heir to my wytchy fortune. I do not own a home, so all I have to pass along is my wytchy stuff, my Led Zeppelin/Robert Plant collection, and my car.

All that has been decided. And now, I have made my decision as to where my Book of Shadows and the rest of my stuff shall go. My daughter shall be heir to all I have in my Wytchy World. I have such a huge collection of books on the subject that is would fill two walls!

I started thinking about this when a friend of mine nearly died a few months ago in a terrible accident. I put much thought and many hours of thought into this decision. Once I decided, I made my intentions clear.

When I told Debbie of my decision, I thought she would never stop crying. She was happy yet sad. It was something she did not want to think about.

Well, nobody wants to think about such things, but you must. She is the only one allowed to even touch my Book of Shadows, let alone look in it to read from it. She has come over for her lessons on time every time. She is learning the Craft well. Most of all–I TRUST HER.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I surely do not want my Book of Shadows, which I spent many hours working on, ending up in a dumpster somewhere. I wrote every word in that book in calligraphy. If anything, it is a piece of art. For one, I have the fortune of having bought a grand Book of Shadows from a great company called Brahm’s Bookworks (link enclosed at the end), which is like the one you see on the show Charmed. Mine weighs over 30 pounds. Now you see why I do not want it simply dumped in the trash.

Who do I know who would appreciate this? My daughter!

Where will the hundreds of jars of herbs end up? Herbs that I lovingly planted, nurtured, and harvested. I have many bottles of oils which I have made, not to mention the holistic medicines I have made from all the above.

My staff, which I lovingly hand picked, designed by me for me, blessed and consecrated and has become a part of me, I do not want to end up in a burn pile somewhere as trash. If, my daughter chooses to burn it in memory of me so that none can use my “magickal” staff, then so be it.

A few of my friends may end up with a few things–some of the herbs and oils and such. My stones and all I promised to a friend who also makes jewelry. So he can use what he wants for wytchy works and pick what he needs for jewelry.

Of course, some things, I can leave to the world via the net. Some of this I have accomplished already. But face it, out in the world of Cyberspace, one cannot be too sure of who they are dealing with. A lot of my stuff is found and will be found as I continue, on Pathways Seminary.

But, I thought I would offer up this little essay as a reminder to all not to forget about whom you will leave your most precious Wytchy wears to. Since the baby boomers are now into their Crone years or close to it as I am, there are a lot of us pagans who belong to this age group.

So while you are sitting there, making out your wills, reserve space and time to have it in writing, to whom you are passing down your religious and magickal items to. I know, whomever ends up with them shall appreciate both the deep thought you put into giving it to them, as well as appreciating the work you did, and all the knowledge contained within these items.

I am happy that I know where my knowledge is going to be used and appreciated.

Thank you,
LadyGoldenraven

___________________________________

Footnotes:
Link to Book of Shadows: http://www.brahmsbookworks.com/id2.html

White-Washed Witches

White-Washed Witches

Author:   BellaDonna Saberhagen   

Witches are good. They were the great priests and priestesses of the “Old Religion” that everyone turned to in times of need. They were healers and seers, guides and advocates. It was only when the big bad Christians came and burned the Witches (nine million women, to be exact) that they were seen as bad, malevolent, evil things seeking to destroy all that was good and holy. Christianity maligned the good people of the earth, demonized the gods, and spread the hatred and fear of Witches that survives until this very day.

The above sounds familiar, doesn’t it? It’s what many Pagan authors believe and would like their readers to believe. The only problem is, it’s not true. It’s rewritten history. Every bit of it. If we’re to grow beyond the haphazard anthropology of Margaret Murray, we have to accept that. Many Pagans do accept that (most Pagans by now, I would hope) ; but there is one part of it that seems to be ignored: that Witches are good, and in fact MUST be good.

Historically, often the opposite is true. I’m not speaking of Celtic or even Norse tales; one can argue that since they were not written down until after Christians took over their respective regions that they may well have been changed to suit Christian morality. However, the Greeks had tales of witches that far pre-date the Christian take-over, and even these do not paint witches too kindly.

Medea was a princess well skilled in magic. In the tale of Jason and the Golden Fleece, she plays a key role. Hera takes an interest in the success of the mission and asks Aphrodite to have her son Cupid strike Medea with love for Jason so that she would be willing to help him with her “dark knowledge.” Medea’s father was King Aetes, the keeper of the Golden Fleece. After being struck with love for the enemy of her father, Medea considers killing herself with one of her deadly potions rather than betray her father or her love. However, she decides to betray Aetes and help Jason, which sets the tone for future actions. She gives him a balm that makes him invincible for a day and tells him how to win the trial her father has set before him to win the Golden Fleece. After the trial is won, she learns that her father has no intention of honoring his bargain and handing over the Fleece. She tells Jason of this and he and the Argonauts steal the Fleece and take her with them as they flee. During the pursuit, Medea is responsible for allowing the Argonauts to escape by causing her brother’s death; either by asking him to rescue her and sending him into a trap or by cutting him into pieces herself and forcing her father to stop pursuit to gather the remains of his dismembered son.

Upon arriving home, Jason finds that his father, the rightful king, was forced to suicide by the evil Pelias (the entire expedition for the Fleece was a bargain made between he and Jason, if Jason could bring the Fleece, Pelias would relinquish the kingdom back to its rightful ruler) . Jason needs to bring Pelias down and again turns to Medea. Pelias is an old man, so Medea approaches his daughters with a magical way to make the old young again. She cuts up an old ram in front of them, puts the pieces in a pot of boiling water, says a charm and out springs a lamb. That night, the daughters happily cut their own father to ribbons in their effort to make him young again. Jason becomes king. Medea bears Jason two children, but he does not marry her. Instead, he marries the princess of Corinth in order to gain that kingdom as well and forces her and her sons to leave his realms because she threatens harm to his new wife and he has seen what she can do. In exile, Medea sends a poisoned garment that kills Jason’s wife. Once Jason finds out, he threatens to sell his sons into slavery, so Medea kills them herself so that they would not be so tortured and shamed; then she escapes as Jason curses her.

While some of her magic may have been for what she saw as good, she certainly did not live by the codes modernly associated with Witches. She was a Witch, but not a good Witch. Her early magic may not seem so bad, helping Jason to win the Fleece through the trial; but she had to betray her own family to even go that far and that was certainly seen as evil in those days. Circe was a “most beautiful and dangerous witch.” She turned every man she came upon into a beast, but with a human mind so that they remained conscious of their predicament. When Odysseus sent a scouting party out to check the island, she turned them into swine, save one who got away and ran back to tell his captain. Odysseus went alone to face Circe, having been given an herb by Hermes to prevent her magic from affecting him. That he was able to resist her magic sparked Circe’s romantic interest and she freed his men and told him what he must do next on his long journey home.

In another tale, Glaucus sought a love potion from her to make the woman he desired love him. His story made Circe love him, but he was not interested. She decided it was the fault of the woman for which he longed. Circe turned this woman into a monster that destroyed all that tried to get close. Her name was Scylla; she became a monster that different sea-farers worried about in several tales. She was another Witch doing evil things, possibly in the name of love, possibly for her own selfish aims.

The concept of Witches as evil is older than Christendom. These tales prove this. In fact, the idea of Witches as good is more modern than many would prefer to believe. The book, The Wizard of Oz was banned in some places for daring to have good Witches in it. Even Leland’s Aradia has Witches doing bad things (the age of this text is up for conjecture, I date it to Leland, since his claimed source was never heard from again; others consider it to be based on a much older text) . Aradia is told by her mother: “And thou shalt teach the art of poisoning, Of poisoning those who are great lords to all; Yea, thou shalt make them die in their palaces; and thou shalt bind oppressor’s souls; and when ye find a peasant who is rich, then ye shall teach the witch, your pupil how To ruin all his crops with tempests dire (…) And when a priest shall do you injury By his benediction, ye shall do to him double harm and do it in the name of me, Diana, queen of witches all!”

I find that Leland’s Aradia states that Witches should out-right harm those who oppose them (and even those simply better off than they are) very interesting since some of his writings were clearly taken and applied to some forms of modern Wicca. The Charge of the Goddess as written by Doreen Valiente states, “Whenever ye have need of any thing, once in the month, and better it be when the moon is full, then shall ye assemble in some secret place and adore the spirit of She, who is Queen of all witches. There shall ye assemble, ye who are fain to learn all sorcery, yet have not won its deepest secrets; to these will She teach things that are yet unknown. And ye shall be free from slavery; and as a sign that ye be really free, ye shall be naked in your rites.”

From Aradia: ”Whenever ye have need of anything, Once in the month, and when the moon is full, ye shall assemble in some desert place, or in a forest all together join to adore the potent spirit of your Queen, my mother, Great Diana. She who fain would learn all sorcery has not won its deepest secrets, then my mother will teach her, in truth all things as yet unknown. And ye shall be freed from slavery, and so ye shall be free in everything; and as the sign that ye are truly free, ye shall be naked in your rites.”

I only hope Valiente gave Leland credit and did not just outright plagiarize him. This piece is clearly taken from Aradia, but the morality taught in that book (what I took as proof of Witches doing bad things was from the very same chapter as the “Charge” was “borrowed” from) was discarded and the Wiccan Rede placed in its stead. Since, by what most modern Witches would prefer to believe, all Witches follow the Rede, there are no bad Witches; and if you believe Wicca is the “Old Religion” of Europe, there never were bad Witches.

This belief creates individuals who become indignant every time pop-culture and media portray Witches as anything but good. They cry everything from “Christian persecution” to “the patriarchy gets nervous about powerful women, so they have to make them evil, cruel and sometimes insane.” While these beliefs may not be baseless, it must also be understood that Witches are not always good, just as Christians are not always good, just as your five year-old is not always good. Witches are humans and as humans, we can make mistakes, get angry, be selfish, exact revenge and wish to protect our families and property at all costs. If modern Witchcraft really wants to strive to be one with nature, then we cannot go against nature. Nature is both destructive and creative, we need to be the same or we are unbalanced. It may well be true that “The Witch that cannot hex, cannot heal.”

I see the modern good interpretations of Witches to be like old B-rate horror day-for-night shots (outdoor scenes filmed in broad day-light with a filter over the lens trying to create the illusion of darkness and usually failing) ; they give the darkness lip-service but stay within the circle of their white-light lamp. Sometimes you have to step outside your comfort zone to get in touch with reality; you might not always like the reality you see, but at least it is real and not a fantasy. The Witch as always good is just as much a fantasy as the Witch that is always bad.

_______________________________________

Footnotes: Mythology by Edith Hamilton Aradia or Gospel of the Witches by Charles LeLand The Charge of the Goddess by Doreen Valiente

Wicca and Respect

Wicca and Respect

Author:   Witcher   

Wicca. The word conjures (pun intended) an image of a young girl, probably dressed in black, almost assuredly Caucasian, wearing a large ostentatious pentacle in silver and draped in a cloak of dime store velveteen while surfing pet listing to find a black cat without that annoying rogue white paw. It probably also brings up youthful ‘phases’ of writing in a Book of Shadows, watching The Craft (but pretending not to like it) and reading whatever you can find at the local bookstore on witches while mispronouncing everything and hollering about ‘the burning times’ at the drop of a hat. It seems to me that all the images we have of Wicca are of young, beginning people who have a very childish approach to religion. Surprisingly, I don’t get these images from anti-Pagan Christians or from mocking nonbelievers. I get these images from fellow Pagans.

Wicca seems to be viewed by other Pagans as an entry-level position, so to speak. Many Pagans I speak with found Paganism through the lens of Wicca before they moved onto their current paths. What I want to highlight in this essay is that moving from Wicca to another Pagan path should not be viewed as a path …but instead as a move ‘away’.  Wicca is a path of its own, with its own symbolism and mythos that is not a simple stop-by on the Pagan spiritual progression.

I came to Wicca late in the game, so to speak. My entry into the Pagan world was not through Wicca but through Hellenismos and other Reconstructionist Pagan paths. When I was researching religion after deciding to leave Christianity and finding Buddhism not working for me, the last thing I wanted was Wicca. Wicca seemed to me to be a childish sort of Paganism reserved for teenagers that had no intellectual weight. The stain of poor history put forth by early Wiccans about witch-cults and Gardner’s past seemed to be unavoidable and troubling to say the least. Reconstructionism seemed to me to offer a more intellectual and historically accurate form of worship and ritual. I had a problem, though. Every time I worshiped or performed ritual in these ways, I felt like I was running into a wall. I felt no inspiration and I felt like I was going through the motions. I was an atheist for a long time and I just felt like nothing was going to move me. Then it happened.

I decided to give Wiccan ways a try. I mean, what did I have to lose? I had read a lot on Wicca and I knew many of the basic ways they worshiped and did ritual. I built an altar with homemade items. I cast the circle, saluting the elements and the God and Goddess. The candles were beautiful, the sweet incense enticing. And it happened. I felt something. It was not some thunderstruck prophet-moment. It was just a simply joy that filled me up. I felt comfortable, beautifully involved with what I was doing and happy. I continued doing rituals and simple blessings daily at my patchwork homemade shrine and my joy continued. I felt refreshed and inspired. I felt like I had found something that truly worked for me. The writings of Gardner, Valiente, Sanders, the Farrars, and the rest were a big inspiration. I no longer took them literally, nor did I need to. I took them as a toolkit: a language, a symbolism, and a system to organize spirituality. It worked.

As I rejoiced personally in my newfound spirituality, I began to get dismayed at how Wicca was talked about and how fellow Pagans portrayed it. I was told on forums and in person that I should give up “that silly stuff” and focus on something more serious. When I talked about the God and Goddess I received frowns or eye-rolls from Recons and irritated sighs from Eclectics who told me that the BTW form of Wicca (the form I feel closest to and want to work with) was elitist and full of holes. I was constantly pointed to “better scholarship” that was meant to show me the error of my silly witchy ways. It began to get overwhelming. When I tried to explain to people that it was the ritual of Wicca that appealed to me and that the Goddess and God duality was simply a form of deity that inspired me, it didn’t seem to matter. How can it not matter?

I do not believe that other approaches to the gods are wrong. I believe that the hard polytheist Recon and the soft polytheist or pantheist Pagan can work together. I know they can for I have seen them do it. What I find puzzling is that these two groups can agree to disagree but all seem to be willing to shoot down Wiccan duotheism as a poor path. This seems unhelpful and judgmental, to say the least. If the pantheist who uses polytheism as a lens through which to see some greater truth is welcome at the table then I see no reason whatsoever that the Wiccan’s duotheism can not be welcome either.

There are serious and dedicated Wiccans out there, believe you me. I have met with them, spoke with them and learned from them. Many Wiccans practice their path with the same dedication and love that other Pagans do. Are there beginners who give a bad name to the religion? Of course there are. Think of this. How many liberal, kind, loving Christians do you know? If you’re like me, you know many. Now, do those free-thinking and loving people allow the screeching conservative faces of their religion to get them down or define their faith? No, of course not. Why can’t we in the Pagan community do the same? Many Asatru practitioners were not willing to allow racists to hijack their religion and we Wiccans are not willing to let sloppy practice and bad scholarship poison ours. You’ve dealt with your wing nuts; we’re dealing with ours.

Wiccan rituals may not be ancient. In fact, most Wiccans freely admit that they aren’t. Does it really matter? If traditional Wiccan practices give people a way in which to worship and a structure for ritual and a mythos of one’s own then I see no reason why it can’t be welcomed openly in contemporary Paganism. Wicca deserves a lot of the credit for bringing Paganism into the mainstream and popularizing earth-centered spirituality. Wicca has allowed thousands of people who felt empty and closed off from religion to find a place where their voices are heard and their experience celebrated. Wicca has been a therapeutic and restorative religion for so many. It deserves a little respect for all of this, does it not?

I am not a teenager. I am educated. I am dedicated. I respect history and scholarship. I respect the views of others and realize that my duotheism may not jive with others. I am all of this, and I am Wiccan. If Wicca was a starting point for you but you felt that it did not fulfill something in you, then that is perfectly fine. If other Pagan paths called to you or if a more Eclectic branch came out of your spiritual workings then that is great. Please, however, do not think that leaving Wicca is somehow graduating to something with more meat and less fluff. I firmly believe that religion can only give out what you put in. If a newly converted Pagan practices Wicca and only uses bad scholars, poorly written rituals and mass media portraitures of witchcraft, then what could the expected outcome be? Many of us, on the other hand, are putting in love and dedication, intelligence and devotion.

What we get out of Wicca is beautiful. Mutual respect is crucial to any religion, especially one as diverse and contemporary Paganism. Let’s try and respect the religion that did so much for modern Pagans, and does so much for thousands of practitioners today.

Rethinking Community for Solitaries

Rethinking Community for Solitaries

Author:   Incense Dragon   

For two decades or more, I have been involved in some way with Community building among Pagans. During that time I have attended countless group meetings, attended every kind of fundraiser imaginable, seen groups build up and rip themselves apart, and watched a lot of very well-meaning people expend tremendous amounts of energy, time, and money only to see their efforts bring little or no fruit as a result. Sometimes these efforts are very successful (look at Heartland Pagan Festival or PantheaCon as examples) but sometimes they find only short-lived benefit (if any) .

After sitting out of these kinds of activities for nearly 5 years, I was drawn into this same old model once again when a local leader asked me to run for an open position on the board of directors of her organization. I very quickly found myself back with the same old problems, same old types of conflict, and had to ask myself “how did I end up here yet again?” The answer is simple: Community building is very important to me. It was important to my Pagan mentor decades ago and it has always been important to me. That hasn’t changed a bit. I am still very concerned with building bridges between all Pagans and Pagan groups.

The problem is not necessarily with the well-meaning people who start these groups. When they survive their early efforts, they can develop into long-running events or groups. These types of groups and events are critical to networking, communication, creating a broader community, and giving us ways to come together and celebrate. We need to embrace those successes, but recent events have caused me ask what other approaches there might be. Are there alternatives that would make our efforts at community building more successful?

So I began to meditate on this topic. I asked my patron god and goddess for direction, opened myself to all friendly powers, and began a process of self-examination. In the end, I was surprised by what was revealed to me. Like the majority of American Pagans, I am a Solitary. In my heart, I have always been Solitary, despite my time in a coven. I am Solitary by Choice. I love meeting with other Pagans of all walks of life and going to festivals and conventions with throngs of my fellow Pagans, Solitary and Traditional Pagan alike. But I am a Solitary and decided to walk that path long ago. So why am I trying to act like I am not Solitary?

Large organizations are essential to the building and networking of the Pagan Community. However, I believe we have really missed the boat by using this as our primary (and often exclusive) method of organizing. Large groups are a typical, conventional approach to organization. Pagans are not typical people, however, and conventional approaches may not always be the best way for us. I’m a devote Solitary but that does not mean that I cannot work in a group nor that Solitaries are unable to organize events. Those of us who are Solitary by Choice are still able to work with others to achieve common goals, but we have to recognize that we are a different breed than Traditional Pagans.

I am somewhat sympathetic to those used to the, comparatively, orderly nature of Covens who are thrust into dealing with Solitaries. Solitaries are a group in name only – the reality is that each one of us is different and it is only our basic beliefs that tie us together. Traditional Pagans are, of course, also individuals and I don’t mean to paint them as if they are just in lock-step with their HP or HPS. They view the Pagan world through the eyes of a Coven, and that is quite a different perspective than held by many Solitaries. Our inability to recognize this basic difference has led to countless conflicts, misunderstandings, and worse.

So what do we do?

We can’t possibly ask our Coven Brothers and Sisters to do all of the work. This is something that often happens. Solitaries go to festivals and conventions organized by others, but less often do the work that goes on behind the scenes. It’s completely unfair to enjoy the fruits of the work of others without giving back. We cover some of that by volunteering during the event (picking up trash, hauling wood, etc.) but many Solitaries do not know how, or do not feel welcome, to be part of the organizational side of things. For many, however, it is the feeling of being an “outsider” or feeling excluded (because we are not part of the group behind the organizing of an event) that can lead to feelings of disenfranchisement.

This is the line of thinking that took me into my two month-long meditation about my future with the Pagan Community. My personal conclusion is that I have taken the wrong approach to growing the Pagan Community for all of these decades. Some Solitaries may not be “into” large groups by their nature. This type and form of organization is not native to many of us, and for some it is downright offensive. I just went through a conflict with a local Pagan leader for whom I had the deepest respect and trust. When I failed to act within the organization as a “Covener” would be expected to act, conflict exploded. In the end it turned out to be that this leader did not understand how our email list worked and she believed that I was sending internal organizational information to the general public. It was a simple misunderstanding on her part that led to a painful several months for us both and obliterated my trust in and respect for her.

This led to a horrible conflict between us. She relied on how she was used to people communicating within the bounds of a Coven. I am an “independent operator” with very strong ethical rules and put a lot of emphasis on written communication (I live 60 miles away from the city where meetings are held) . When the Traditional approach and the Solitary approach clashed, the results were horrific. I was insulted and demeaned both publically and privately because someone did not understand how something functioned. This doesn’t mean that the leader is a terrible person. She’s simply not equipped to deal with those of a very different history and perspective. I am not like those she is used to working with. Once our perspectives came into conflict, she interpreted that as a conflict between the two of us personally. Things rapidly spiraled out of control to the point that I was ready to resign from her organization in spite of being a member of the board of directors.

The conflict with that leader will be my last of this nature. I am moving out of these types of organizations and instead I am transforming my efforts to connect and build the Pagan Community into an approach that I should have been using for 20 years. Why have I spent all of this time attempting to fit into an organizational model that I have actively avoided in every other context? I am not saying that I am going to resign from the Pagan organizations to which I belong. Even the organization where I was so heavily impacted by someone else’s ignorance is a place where I intend to keep a membership and continue to participate. I have, however, resigned from that group’s board of directors. The organizational expectations that exist there are designed for those who are prefer the Coven approach. I am not such a person. I am an independent operator and trying to be something I’m not has resulted in recurrent failure.

Instead, I want to use my Solitary approach as an advantage rather than a shortfall to overcome. I am self-reliant and dependable. In fact, it’s difficult for me to rely on anyone else outside my immediate family anyway, so why not rely on the one person upon whom I can always depend? Over the years, I have built very close relationships with a few select Pagans I have grown to trust. Between those people and myself, there is little that we cannot do within our own scale. We will never be a large enough group to accomplish some of the things that large organizations do, but we can certainly do a great deal.

Looking at the overall Pagan Community in America, it seems to me that we mostly exist as individuals or small groups scattered around the country. Think of it as the way that America looked in the 19th Century, especially along the various frontiers. Villages and tiny towns were the way that the individuals or small families who lived in the wild lands would trade and communicate. These are like small Covens or other small, local Pagan groups. There were a few large cities near the frontiers where far more goods and services were available. Using that model, the frontier is where the Solitaries dwell and the cities are the home of large Covens or other large, formal organizations. We are all part of the same society, same nation, and same general geographic area. Yet we are clearly distinct. Each has benefits and drawbacks. Nevertheless, for the nation as a whole to operate, each of these parts must work together.

It’s not a perfect analogy, but it gets to the heart of how we can work together. Cities depend on food and other materials that come from the frontiers/wild places. Raw materials are processed into goods and are available to frontiers people. Each provides something that the other needs and together we operate as a complete economy.

So where does that leave me and thousands of others in a similar situation? How can a Solitary even help to build community? What can a Solitary do that is different than the “standard model” that we have used for community for so long?

One nice thing about being a Solitary is that I have neither reason nor desire to tell anyone else what to do. Don’t look for me to tell you what anyone else should do. I can tell you what I’m going to do. First, I have resigned from all leadership positions in these types of Traditional Pagan organizations. I still think those organizations are important and useful and I will remain a “rank-and-file” member of such organizations, but I will no longer take any type of formal or leadership role within those organizations. Instead, I’m going to focus on projects that help to build community interconnectivity whether between groups or individuals. Some are old projects that I’ve had in mind for a long time, but for which I could never get support from the various organizations with which I worked. Only recently, I realized that I can do a lot of this work alone and that would give me the freedom to try whatever approaches I wish. No meetings, conferences, committees, diminution of the original concept, and no need to find “compromise solutions”. If a project fails, there are no political ramifications and nobody will accuse me of wrongdoing or making a bad decision. If I make a bad decision, I will deal with the consequences myself.

There are drawbacks to this approach. If things go wrong there is nobody else to blame. When you work alone, you have to accept all successes and failures as your own. As a Solitary you can only hope to work with others on occasion. I am not “married” to the idea that I always have to work alone, but I do know that if I plan to work alone I will never be disappointed when someone else fails to show up. Working alone, or with just one or two other people, means you have fewer “person hours” per week to work on a project, you have a lesser ability to raise funds, have to carry all of the needed equipment, set it up, and tear it down with little outside help. It is harder to bounce ideas off someone else when they are not involved in the development of the project. I am also limited by my own knowledge and experience. In a large group you often have a variety of knowledge and skills upon which you can draw.

Working alone also means that the scope or scale of your projects have to be appropriate. Although it is theoretically possible that I could plan a large event and pay for it by myself, realistically I am limited as to the size of projects that I can take on alone. A primary project I am doing currently is a Public Access television show for Pagans ( http://www.incenseboopks.com/moment.htm or http://www.youtube.com/user/PentOclockNews) . I am doing the whole process by myself (aside from the people in the videos) – I record the video and operate the camera, I do the editing, titles, voiceovers, set up the interviews, buy equipment, etc., by myself. It would be nice to have someone else along who can run a camera or just carry equipment (although it has yet to happen) , but this is a Solitary project. And it is a project that can definitely make a difference and help our community statewide. Eventually, perhaps, it will be helpful nationwide.

I am able to (and often do) travel around the state to visit my fellow Pagans and attend their events or meetings. When I do this as an active leader for some organization, like it or not, my visits to those other communities are seen as “official” by many people. As a standing officer, even if I know it’s not true, I have to accept that a lot of people would still see it this way. If the group I want to visit is in some kind of dispute or disagreement with the organization to which I belong, people can easily misinterpret such a visit. Yet if I am not affiliated with the leadership of any particular group, then those problems vanish.

I want to give one more example of what a single person can do to help build a stronger Pagan community. Casting my mind back to the autumn of 2007, I can think of something fun I did (as a Solitary) , that provided an immediate positive impact on my community. I have a friend who holds an annual “non-Event” that is a camping gathering of Pagans in central Oklahoma. This is an open event where Pagans gather at a state park for a weekend of camping, drumming, and fun without any agendas, formal rituals, or planned workshops. Beej’s Non-Event is another great example of a Solitary effort – Beej had the idea, told people, and they came. Naturally, everyone brings their own camping gear and feeds himself or herself. I asked myself what I could do, on my own, to make this event more enjoyable for everyone? There is no staff or schedule, so it truly was a Solitary situation.

My solution was to create the “Greenman Kitchen”. On Saturday morning of the non-event, I set up my canopy, fired up 3 camping stoves, and cooked breakfast for everyone who cared to get up (I fed roughly 35 people that morning) . I did the work and provided everything – it was simply my way to say “thank you” to my community for everything they did for me throughout the year. It required not a single meeting or committee or vote. I didn’t need anyone’s approval nor did I have to compromise on the menu or methods. I did something nice and fun for everyone, and it was a blast. Yes, it was hours of hard work but it was all on my own terms. Best of all, it was a huge Solitary success. I hope to one day bring the Greenman Kitchen back to life in the Oregon Pagan Community. These are not the only such Solitary activities I’ve done for the community, but a nice example of the power of A Circle of One.

Our community benefits from all kinds of people. Our diversity is possibly our greatest strength yet we so often take steps to squash that diversity rather than benefit from it. Those who work well in groups are crucial to the future of the Pagan community in America. One or two individuals simply can’t create the large, organized events that we occasionally get to enjoy. We NEED those who can work with and effectively lead groups of Pagans. They are a huge part of how we can draw closer and bring our energies together. I just hope that if you’ve read all the way to the end of this article that you can now see that YOU as an individual can do a great deal to build and improve our community. Solitaries, Traditional Pagans, and those in-between or beyond those limits can all contribute to making ours a stronger, better-connected community.

Solitary individuals have far more ability to positively impact the Greater Pagan Community than most of us have thought in the past. We Solitaries owe a big debt to those organizations that have worked so hard to create events over the decades. Now we Solitaries need to step up and do our part to help this community connect and grow. The great news is that we can do this while remaining true to our Solitaries paths. We need not try to work within organizations that run counter to how we function in order to be part of the community and to positively contribute to its growth.

I’m a Witch, Not a Wiccan: A Brief Summary of Broad Pagan Designations

I’m a Witch, Not a Wiccan: A Brief Summary of Broad Pagan Designations

Author:   Treasach   

I have commented before on the usefulness of designations in the neopagan community. Though we are generally self-directed with many being solitary and “eclectic”, it is darn helpful to be able to declare certain predispositions, especially if one is interested in working with others. In joining an on-line group or planning a ritual, the use of categories can help determine if a great deal of negotiation, or only a little, is required to make your collaborations most satisfying.

One question often asked is the difference between designations in the neopagan community. Of course, there are a vast variety of answers, and as a very dynamic and vibrant community, these answers may be quite altered in a decade. However, there are some trends that seem to have settled out for the moment…

Earth Religions or Earth-Centred Spirituality is currently the designation for all those traditions that are outside most of the major religions, i.e. Abrahamics, Buddhists, etc., but that also follow an Earth based path. It usually encompasses folk traditions, like European peasant beliefs and practices, as well as native aboriginal spirituality. However, not all followers of those traditions would choose to call themselves pagan, especially if they also practice some form of Abrahamic religion as well. So it’s best to not to assume, which is why Paganism is a subset of Earth Religions.

Paganism, or Neopaganism, is the modern catch-all phrase for many organized and non-organized Earth based religions and spirituality. Often seen as based on European Aboriginal practices and beliefs, it can also be used to describe traditional African, Asian, and North American spirituality, though less so, largely due to its primarily English usage. By declaring oneself “pagan”, it specifically implies resurgence in traditional Earth Based beliefs, sometimes in defiance of Abrahamics, depending on the area, and a reconstruction of traditional wisdom, knowledge, and connection with Nature as a completion of self and humanity. It can be Deity based, supernatural, or atheistic.

Witchcraft is a subset of Paganism. Because of the etymology and use of the word itself, witchcraft usually means pre-Christian folk beliefs of Western and sometimes Eastern Europe. As a modern practice, it has two main elements, either one of which may be included. It is both tribal and a religious choice. For most, it involves the preference of using magic as meditation, prayer, ritual and empowerment. For a smaller group, they are born into families that are known for the “Gift”, “Second Sight”, or the “Eye” if you are less popular… In the past in most places, children born into these families or who showed potential would often have been trained and dedicated to help their communities. A few of these families that survived the Abrahamic purgings retained the gifts and occasionally the training and traditions that went along with them, though most rejected them, usually out of real fear and concern for their safety if they weren’t outright converted.

Like many reClaimed traditions, such as native spirituality, modern witchcraft is a combination of contemporary writings and current analysis of past traditions, as well as past and extant examples of country and folk rituals, and to a much smaller extent, of witch families and their practices. Due to recent advances in cultural archaeology, it is also undergoing the greatest updates and flux. Though most are not from family traditions, modern witches can follow the folk beliefs of the aboriginal Europeans, or practice magic, or both. They can also refer to themselves as witches if they come from a witch family or have the traditional innate abilities, without practising a folk religion or spellcraft. Or any combinations of the above, including practising witchcraft in other traditions, like Abrahamics. (Jewitches. Heh.) It’s a pretty broad category, but my usual test is – anything that can get you burnt as a witch by fundies usually qualifies you to self-identify as a witch. Spellcraft, Goddess worship, foretelling, healing… But not that heretic stuff. That’s totally different.

Due to its heavy reliance on magic and its European structure, Wicca is almost entirely a subset of Witchcraft, though there are a few practitioners who could be considered outside of it, such as high magicians. Wicca is a relatively new tradition, with its origins largely in the middle part of last century, with some of the structure extending back into the Victorian era. Drawing on what was known at the time of folk history and tradition, it is a conglomeration of primarily European beliefs, but also reflects turn of the century Orientalism with elements of ancient Greek, Roman, Egyptian, and Asian references. Though slow to start, in the last few decades it has had hundreds of writers popularizing it, and has seen an explosion in individual sects. Because of its very modern feel and adaptations while retaining an aura of Romanticism, Wicca is one of the largest and best known segments of Witchcraft and neopaganism, and one of the fastest growing religions in the world.

Wiccans are almost always witches, but witches aren’t always Wiccan. Wiccan is not the ‘politically correct’ term for witch. It’s a sect of witchcraft, like Protestantism is for Christians. They have certain specific beliefs and rituals that identify them as a group. You wouldn’t call all Christians Protestants, would you? (*Hence, the Venn diagram.) I hope that clears things up, especially for the well meaning but less knowledgeable.

Heathenism is a collective category of paganism who follow the Old Religion and who will sometimes consider themselves Wiccan if they practice magic but usually don’t identify as witches at all. Primarily men, they can be of a more structured faith, like Druids, or more folk based, like Odinists. They often identify with warrior culture and value traditional knowledge, self-reliance, personal strength and honour.

This is a very brief sketch, of course, and some in the community will dispute these categories. There are lots of others as well. Wizards, or High Magic practitioners, for example, deal with the Other World and its denizens in a rigid, formalized manner, and so can be from nearly any religion, including Abrahamics. From what our current literature refers to, these are the general starting points and what most persons will intend to convey when they use these terms at the moment. As neopaganism is one of the fastest growing religions on the planet, however, I have little doubt that these terms will alter considerably in the next decade or so.

_____________________________________

Footnotes:
*Venn diagram is here:
http://gifts-of-nature.blogspot.ca/2012/10/im-witch-not-wiccan-brief-summary-of.html

Besom Chant

besom

Besom Chant
 
Besom, besom long and lithe
Made from ash and willow withe
Tied with thongs of willow bark
In running stream at moon-set dark.
With a pentagram indighted
As the ritual fire is lighted;
Sweep ye circle, deosil,
Sweep out evil, sweep out ill,
Make the round of the ground
Where we do the Lady’s will.
Besom, besom, Lady’s broom
Sweep out darkness, sweep out doom
Rid ye Lady’s hallowed ground
Of demons, imps and Hell’s red hound;
Then set ye down on Her green earth
By running stream or Mistress’ hearth,
‘Till called once more on Sabbath night
To cleans once more the dancing site.
—-Lady Tamara