It Must Be Real; It’s on Wikipedia

The Bad Witch is trying as hard as she can to categorize Pagan and Earth Religions for her students. I knew that, with all of our paradoxical drives, including, but not limited to, our postmodern insistence that we not be defined, it was going to be hard. But, I didn’t imagine I was going to end up editing Wikipedia. I have never done this before.[1] I’m waiting to see who I piss off first.

I did that on purpose . . .

As I pointed out in my revision of the Wikipedia page on “Wicca,” many people still confuse the term “Wicca” as synonymous with the word “Witch” or “Witchcraft.” However, many writers are now using a much more (correctly) limited definition of “Wicca,” confining the term to the Gardnero-Alexandrian Traditions. Wicca is a relatively new religion, created by Gerald Gardner in the early 20th Century and revised by Alex Sanders in the 1960s. Though Gardner claims that Wicca is a survival of an ancient religious way, anthropological and archaeological evidence contradict this.[2] For this reason, most scholars do not consider Wicca to be the same as “Traditional Witchcraft” but rather consider Wicca to be a modern revival of Traditional Witchcraft. Such “revival” sects are referred to as neoPagan.

Please do not misunderstand.

This does *not* mean that Wicca is not a valid path, a true religion, or a lesser form of worship. Some folks in the Pagan/Heathen community see calling a religion “new” as a besmirchment. This is ridiculous. I know we would all like to say that our “Old Ways” are preChristian and we all like to point out (and often giggle at) the Christian interpretations of Pagan festival traditions.[3] I know we all like to remove the shame of sexuality and the stigma of femininity from our Holy Ways by embracing a more matristic past. But the truth of the matter is, without a written language, we cannot know what our Celtic and Norse progenitors were doing.

Gardener said he met with British Witches in the era just after two World Wars, after nearly two-thousand years of Roman Catholic influence in Europe. (Yes, yes. Even Protestants – hell, even Muslims, are influenced by Rome, let’s not fight with The Bad Witch on silly points. Save your battles for the real things.) What he developed was a cohesive, structured, and broadly applicable religious system that reinvented what was left of the “Old Ways” by integrating that which remained from antiquity and approximating that which may have been lost, altered, or abandoned (due to Christian persecution, technological advancements, and the socio-economic changes that came with industrialization). Gardener took what was known from the past, made some educated-hypothetical guesses at what was missing, an filled in the blanks. Mostly by using Golden Dawn stuff, but you gotta start somewhere. Wicca is a logical religion, it makes sense. But, it’s not ancient. Someone please explain to me how that’s an insult.

Likewise, Asatru. But I didn’t have to screw around with this Wikipedia page. It already said that Asatru is, “the contemporary revival of historical Germanic paganism. Precursor movements appeared in the early 20th century in Germany and Austria. A second wave of revival began in the early 1970s.” But that doesn’t mean that a good number of Heathens don’t misimagine their religion as being ancient. Sure, the Old Norse ways existed and we have plenty of evidence to put *a* puzzle together. But, when we get the puzzle arranged, is it the same picture our ancestors saw? And does it effing matter?

Those who read the Eddas and the Sagas and imagine that they are reading an ancient religious treatise are only partly right. It is a treatise alright, but a Christian one. As a college English Lit teacher, I know that when students read Beowulf, every anthology points out that the story was widely circulated by scops and bards but was never (that we know of) written down until about 900 AD. I’ve never read an anthology that shrank from pointing out that the Christian influences on Beowulf are profound and may (depending on which scene) entirely modify the character of Beowulf and the depiction of the Norse world and its understanding of the nature of good and evil. Why then do we believe the Eddas, written in the 13th Century by monks, and the Sagas, written in the 13th Century about events in the ninth and tenth Centuries, are loyal accounts of our ancestral ways? Now, don’t get me wrong. The Eddas and the Sagas are beautiful. The stories are probably pretty close to right – as far as the major points of plot are concerned. But can any writer take a strongly Christian aesthetic, value system, and legal standpoint and remain true to the representation of a polytheistic people?

Again, this does not mean that Asatru is not a valid path. The richness of Norse mythology mixed with the fierceness with which Heathens embrace and defend community and kin is what attracts me most.[4]

So, where does that leave us? If we are looking for Old Time Religion, where do we find it?

I think back on my own religious upbringing. Raised in a Churchof God (Protestant, Charismatic, Evangelical, Pentecostal – tongues, no snakes, Fundamentalist) church.[5] On the way home from Sunday school, Mommy would often ask, “What was today’s lesson?”

I’d say, “Naamen,” or whatever.

She’d say, “So, how does that relate to Nanabush?” or “What does that teach you about Cufe-Rabbit?”[6]

Older than Gardnerian traditions, Correlian Wicca, a conglomerate religion based on the teachings of Blv. Orpheis Caroline High-Correll[7] consider themselves a hybrid of Wicca and “Tribalism.” According to WitchSchool files, “the Correlian Tradition considers itself to be ‘Nativist’ –a word roughly synonymous with ‘Pagan’ . . . [and also] synonymous with ‘Witchcraft’” (Witchschool.com).

Now, I’m not one to try to limit others’ access to Native traditions, but Correlianism simply doesn’t ring-true to my car-rides home with my Picti-Scot/Creek little Mommy. It sounds more like Madame Blavatsky. Which is fine. Just not “Cherokee.”[8] To me anyway. But screw me, I’m The effing Bad Witch, admittedly.

Maybe it was to the High-Corrells. But then I have to wonder, did their grandmommy go to a boarding-school and have her braids cut? Did their great-grandmommy watch as relatives walked away from the only home they ever knew, leaving her behind, at twelve, to marry a Scot Hvtkē?[9] (Their logic being: we don’t know which is worse, maybe this way *someone* will live. Great-grandmommy did. We have no idea about the others.) Did their daddy’s kin traverse the boundary of the Cherokee Nation and settle there? Did the High-Correll wagon train more than three hundred miles in about two months (with thirty members of the family between 6 months to 69 years) through the Cherokee Nation at a time when the Cherokee Nation Police were supposed to prevent white settlers from entering?[10]

I guess my only point is this, why can’t we just call a spade a spade and stop all of this religious posturing in an effort to *authenticate* ourselves? Can we just be what we are and do away with all of the effing politics? What we do is always already valid and we don’t need no stinking badges.

I’m The Bad Witch. Like it or not.

Call it ironic if you like, The Bad *Witch* is both Muskogee and Cherokee and a die-hard Heathen with a really-really Celtic matronym (that makes the Bestie giggle). TBW also loves herself some Jesus. A lot. And is deeply entrenched in Hermeticism and Occultism. What am I? I am Sorcerer. I am Magician. I am Witch, Hexe, and one who does Galdr (there is no one Norse word for “Witch” – everyone was one, so I reckon their word was “person”). I am völva.

I’m trying to figure out what my conclusion is and I’m starting to think I don’t have one. Really, perhaps, I’m just looking for feedback. Or maybe just to vent. I was trying to write a lesson, ended up editing Wikipedia, and now I’m out of ideas.

Whatcha got?


[1] Though my son did once as a Sarah Palin/Paul Revere/Stephen Colbert instigated joke. So, I knew how.

[2] That is not to say that the “Old Way” died out, just that it is likely that it’s not necessarily represented by Gardnerian Wicca. Iceland is a different story.

[3] I personally wet myself with glee every Spring when I see the dainty little after-Sunday-School children running through the fields seeking for eggs. If their parents only knew how their white suits and be-ribboned bonnets made them look more like the sperm they represent, there’s no way anyone would get an Easter hat next year.

[4] Obviously, I don’t like the perversions of the religion that lend itself to excuses for racism and an unhealthy obsession with hyper-physical-fitness. (Yes. Be healthy. Be strong. But everything in moderation, right?) Not all Christians are narrow-minded hate-and-fear-mongering fundies, not all Muslims are terrorists, not all Wiccans are “fluffy,” and not all Heathens are Nazis. Clear?

[5] Wow, I deleted a lot here . . .

[6] Everything had something to do with Rabbit. Trust me, grow up Southeast Native American and the Serpent of Genesis means something ENTIRELY different; it is both Tie-snake and Rabbit. Forget about Jakob and Esau; meet Lodge-boy and Thrown-away.

[7] The High-Correll family were descended from a line of Cherokee (Didanvwisgi) and  Scots who were further influenced by Aradians and the mediumisticSpiritualistChurch in 1879.

[8] What does sound Cherokee is what The Bestie (not the be confused with The Beasty) does. She too has Native heritage.

[9] Pronounced hoo-ut-kee. I don’t know how prevalent it is, but it’s what my aunties called white dudes.

[10] The Bad Witch’s family is marginally famous. (I get this stuff from historical records about my family; Daddy always hid these things from me.) This is why I use pseudonyms galore. The historians of our family by mutual consent agreed not to publicly discuss specific subjects. Apparently it’s “embarrassing” to be Cherokee when you are a founding family. Nonetheless, family historians are of the opinion that my über-Bavarian ancestors on Daddy’s side are all mixed with Cherokee blood.

16 comments on “It Must Be Real; It’s on Wikipedia

  1. polyphanes says:

    It’s not easy for a lot of people to realize that value and meaning aren’t simply handed to them from the Universe. They look to whatever it is they’re doing or whatever it is they have as something that defines them, and they take definition from whatever “legitimacy” or “authenticity” they can scrounge up. People, being lazy more often than not, don’t want to have to work and make their own meaning; although letting success be thy proof is excellent and so worth it, most people just dun wanna.

    When it comes to spirituality, I make four classifications of people. Assume there are multiple planes of reality (astral, etheric, akashic; the sephiroth; whatever). There are the materialists, who claim there’s nothing but the plane we reside on here. There are the “merely religious”, who accept there are other planes and higher powers, but don’t seek them out and leave it at that. There are the mystics, who go through the planes to take the shortest and directest path back to the Source. There are the magicians, who visit the planes as they will like different aisles in a supermarket. (These last two can blend, especially for theurgists, but that’s neither here nor there.) Most people nowadays into neopaganism or such fit into that second category of “merely religious”; they might dabble in magic or other esoteric arts, but by and large they want religion and spirituality to fit on them as an accessory instead of figuring out who they are and how they fit into the Universe, which is the point of religion and spirituality.

    Any academic knows how it feels; it’s like a geek talking to a person on the street. The geek knows tons about a specific discipline or area of knowledge and is absolutely fanatic about it. The other guy might have a passing interest, but just doesn’t care that much and walks off when he gets bored to the next place. The geek might perk the interest of the dude, but there’s just not enough drive on the dude’s part to have him know or practice or realize as much as the geek might, especially if it makes him seem uncool to others. The geek doesn’t care how he looks, because he’s in love with his field of knowledge; the normal dude wants acceptance more than knowledge, and can find that anywhere providing he’s not seen as “weird” by some arbitrary metric.

  2. Thanks for that to wich I say, “Zactly.”

    The Southern Kitchen Witch and I sat on her porch the night I wrote this and wondered what kind of feedback would come. This is better than either of us hoped for.

    We also said, “Dude.”

    There was drinking.

    I feel a sequel coming on.

  3. *which (or is it witch?)

  4. [...] To use Polyphanes’ metaphor from my last post about this, I was always the solitary “geek” who tinkered-out my own spirituality. By the time I [...]

  5. Lady Ishara says:

    I sense your frustration Bad Witch, and I’m sure you may piss off plenty of folks…lol…Ok, so now I need to ask, which entry on Wikipedia did you edit? I would like to go read it.
    Setting forth definitions gets rather sticky when relying upon the sources that have been handed to us. Much of the information presented by early 20th century scholars has been disproved or has been branded as inaccurate. The work of Margaret Murray comes to mind as one such example.
    British Traditional Witchcraft (BTW) is an umbrella term for several Trads that originated in the British Isles and is not strictly limited to Gardnerian and Alexandrian Traditions, though they are the two with the highest profiles. Along with their particular dogma, there is a certain amount of secret lore and teachings attributed to these traditions, and the knowledge of it is only passed on to those who have been initiated. Initiates make an oath of secrecy to protect this information from any who are not initiates of their Tradition, and with each level of initiation, more of this lore is imparted. The oathbound information is the link to the Witches that Gerald Gardner encountered. I am not an initiated Gardnerian, but this is my understanding of it.
    It is true that identifying as Wiccan does not automatically define an individual as a Witch. It is also true that identifying as a Witch does not mean that an individual is Wiccan. Are we defining Wicca or Witch? Nature or Earth centered religions? NeoPaganism? I think it is imperative to define the term ‘Witch’ using all cultural perspectives. A Witch in Africa (where to this day, Witches are still being persecuted and murdered) will be viewed and defined very differently than the modern, and often romanticized definition adopted by NeoPagans here in the United States.
    Comparing ancient Paganism to modern Paganism is like comparing apples and oranges, imho, no less than comparing ancient Christianity to modern Christianity. Pagan Reconstructionists attempt to recreate the spiritual practices and beliefs of certain ancient cultures and time periods as accurately as possible using historical records. Most reconstructionists will only reconstruct to a point…most will not cross the boundary of performing sacrifice of living beings to make offerings to deities. A Roman or Kemetic reconstructionist will not likely be too keen on slitting the throat of a bull and standing in a chamber underneath it to bathe in the animal’s blood. Nor would they be thrilled to kill and gut an animal to try to get a message from the Gods from it’s entrails. There are some spiritual traditions that do sacrifice animals, but generally, they are not European in origin. All spiritual traditions and the people who practice them are in a constant state of change and evolution — as they should be. Change is the only constant.
    When I am asked to define Paganism/Earth based spirituality, my nutshell definition is this: Though there are differing theological models, most who practice NeoPaganism in it’s many forms recognize the Divine as being both masculine and feminine. We (Pagans) celebrate the cycles and seasons of life and of the Earth.
    When I am asked to define Witchcraft, I explain that Witchcraft takes many forms, but the irreducible truth about Witchcraft is that the practitioner utilizes various methods to affect or initiate change in some way – and that could be for positive or negative purposes. Witches take actions on any and/or all levels of Being to cause change to happen. Witches work toward altering ‘doom’ or ‘fate’.
    It is late, and this Witch must get to sleep….more to come….
    Blessings,
    Lady Ishara )O(

  6. You took the words right outta my mouth.

    I edited “Wicca”. But now, godsdamnit, somebody edited it back. I’ll leave it so you can see. Then I’ll change it again. It said that Wicca was aka Trad Witchcraft. I changed it as indicated in the blog. Now it says Wicca is aka Pagan Witchcraft. To which I can only respond: wtf?

    I was under the impression that Wiccans do consider themselves Witches. I know that I know that I know that *not* all Witches are Wiccans.

    I think it’s very important to challenge the things we have been told are true. For instance, like many academics, I think Bruno Bettleheim is full of his own kind of shite. But unlike most, I’ve been know to argue with the sacred Joseph Campbell. You mention Murray, but does anybody take her seriously anymore? Maybe they do – that’s terrifying.

    You say, “Witches work toward altering ‘doom’ or ‘fate’.” Don’t you think there are a few that work toward manifesting it? I mean, there are some of (I think Chaos Magic here) that don’t see fate/wyrd/destiny the same way many do. But that a whole ‘nother blog topic.

    • Lady Ishara says:

      I will definitely make it over to Wiki to read what is posted on Wicca. I used to like Wiki a lot more than I do at this point in time. People need to keep in mind that the info there is written by whomever wishes to put it out there, and not just believe everything that they read. You know what they say about opinions…lol…everyone has one! If you asked 10 self described Witches to define Witchcraft, you will likely receive 10 different answers. Likewise with other terminology we often use, like ‘wicca’, ‘magician’, ‘sorcerer’, etc… I say, question EVERYTHING, but don’t try to reinvent the wheel at every turn. At one time, over a decade ago, in my own journey on this path I believed that all Witches were Wiccan and/or Pagan, but that not all Wiccans were Witches. I was ignorant and discounting the other cultural worldviews, and was only looking at Witchcraft through a European lens. My blinders came off when I became consciously aware that witches exist within many cultures, even Christianity. Not only that, but the term ‘witch’ in many of those cultures was defined in a most negative context – as in, ‘evil doer’, someone who curses and controls others through magickal means. My Mexican brother in law explained that in Mexico, the positively oriented spiritual practitioners are the Curanderos, aka-Shamanistic healers, and that the “witches” are called Bruja’s. The Bruja’s apparently are believed to be those whose magickal ethics are on shaky ground and that they will do baneful magick to get what they, or any paying customer, wants. In the Bible, the statement, “Thou shall not suffer a witch to live” (sorry, I have likely paraphrased it), actually originally meant to not suffer a poisoner to live. I have a copy of the Bible translated from the Aramaic and Hebrew texts, which is the source of that little tid bit. Many liberties were taken and mistakes made by those who were transcribing the texts. Another prase in the Bible..the one about it being easier to pass a camel through the eye of a needle…should actually read ‘pass a rope through the eye..’ The wrong interpretation of the placement of a dash or dot thus created the resulting errant translations.
      One thing I wanted to add in my first post before I became too incoherent in the late hour I was writing, is that Gardner and others of his era, spelled wicca with one ‘c’ – Wica. It may be a matter of semantics, but I thought it was worth mentioning. Wicca/Wica has grown and evolved to a point that I don’t think it’s possible to use a singular definition. Like the spiritual tradition, the word and it’s definition needs to be more organic and flexible in it’s articulation. There is also an Old English word – “wick” – not sure about the spelling of it, but the word was once a referral to something that was alive, green, and seems to have been a more direct reference to green wood. This may be one source of Gardner’s term, ‘Wica’.
      As for what Witches do, I agree and should have added that Witches not only change fate or destiny, but they also have the power to create it. To risk sounding a bit cliche’, “Where there is a Witch, there is a way”.
      Many Blessings,
      Lady Ishara )O(

  7. Lady Ishara says:

    LOL…it’s frustrating that when you click “post comment” here, there is no way to go back and edit if you realize in hindsight that you should have worded something differently.

    Correction: My blinders came off when I became consciously aware that witches exist within many cultures and spiritual traditions, even Christianity.

  8. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wicca

    That – I can live with :)

    A happy Bad Witch is a safe Bad Witch.

  9. [...] that you are likely going to be working with a neoPagan or Reconstructivist religious path. See my earlier post for more info. It’s valuable, but you have to take what it is, not what you want it to [...]

  10. [...] we try our damndest to maintain “pure” traditions and to stay in line with ancient practices. This isn’t the first time I’ve asked a question like this, but it’s the first time I’ve asked it outright: Is this even a good [...]

  11. [...] me nuts: the article repeatedly conflates Wicca and Witchcraft. Y’all know how I feel about this, right? Right? Beliefnet asks, “how stereotypical silver screen sorcery stacks up to everday [sic] [...]

  12. [...] use old-school Wicca (and by “old-school,” I mean 1960s-80s, not ancient Craft – ancient Witchcraft does not = Wicca) as a launching point to do my own thing, doesn’t mean I don’t value it at all. It’s [...]

  13. [...] I am The Bad Witch, and because I don’t take any stock in what Wikipedia has to say about anything, I went ahead and looked at all of the definitions of “rede” that applied in what many [...]

  14. [...] mentioned a few in these posts: (“It Must Be. . .Wikipedia,” “ Dead Horses . . .,” and “Wannabethans” – likely others as [...]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s