“What’s Wrong With Wicca?”

Hang in there. This is a long one.

I was surfing around the net for an article about something entirely different and stumbled upon the Christian Research Institute’s article “What’s Wrong With Wicca?”[1] under their “Expertly Researched” articles, alongside a colonialist (at best) article on “Shamanism”[2] which reminded me of my Godmother, a missionary.[3] There was yet another, “Homosexuality Facts and Fiction,” that boasted a circumlocution of logic that I have only ever seen homophobic Christians manage.[4]

Let me put on my old lawyer hat one more time and disclose[5] that I was raised in an Evangelical background and retain a great deal of reverence for The Christ, I have a degree in religious studies from a Jesuit university and had my sights set on Episcopal seminary in the 90s,[6] I hang out with Christians (and love them dearly) and go to church with my momma when I visit her, I teach World Religions as part of a number of college level courses, I teach (or have been hired to teach in the Fall) at a leading Pagan seminary,[7] I believe in one Creator (but that’s just me), I do not worship The Satan,[8] and I have a PhD from a pretty decent university. In other words: I know my shit – and I know Christians’ shit too. So, when I poke a few holes in this article by the Christian Research Institute, I hope you won’t resort to Straw-Man-in-a-Pointed-Hat shaped ripostes.

The article starts out fairly enough, stating that Wicca has its origins in Gardner’s work. And that Wicca rejects, “Christian paternalism, homophobia, and insensitivity to the environment.” However, the author diminishes this sensitivity to humankind and Creation by relegating it to the realm of teen rebellion. Where I begin to part ways with the author on more significant grounds than on a rhetorical situation of terms is in the claim that “the worldviews of Christianity and Wicca are . . . worlds apart.”

I had just spent a wonderful evening with some of my aforementioned Christian friends when I found this article.[9]Whenever I am together with this

“Walking a Blended Path”

group, we end up having some wine and discussing hermeneutics. We fascinate each other.

There was a newbie in the group this week and she asked me the perennial question: “So, what do you [Pagans] believe?” After the lawyer-hat moment of explaining that Paganism is not a homogenous belief system and that I spoke only for myself, I proceeded to explain my take on deity, creation, prayer, Christ’s human-divinity (and how that relates to our human-divinity as children of God), what it means to be created in the image of God, angels and demons – well, we didn’t get into demons too much – and the designations of the material and the ethereal, and I talked about Kabbalah without actually talking about Kabbalah. Her continual response was that there didn’t seem to be any incompatibilities between my belief system and her belief system.

Except “Grace.”

Her one qualm was that I did not have a place for Grace. “Ah,” I explained, “I also don’t have a concept of sin.” After explaining The Law of Return and The Law of Attraction (using terms like “Karma” to help move things along), I went on to clarify that, as I was taught it (under the dogma of The Church of God), Grace is God’s love and mercy spontaneously and inexplicably given to us unearned and without condition. Therefore, “I live under perpetual Grace; my Creator loves me for reasons I have yet to understand and I find blessings in the most unlikely places.”

She then asked about the “end questions” and I explained that I do not believe in a finite existence. I explained my stance on recurrent incarnations and the support for continued consciousness. After resorting to terms like “Nirvana” for the sake of comprehension, we had to agree to disagree on Heaven and Hell. But that’s OK. Theologians do it all the time.

All of this is simply to discount the statement that Pagan and Christian worldviews are unharmonious. Aside from eschatological issues like eternal damnation, I’d say we have a lot of the same pages.

The CRI article defines Wicca as “distinctively feminist form of neo–paganism” where adherents “worship creation rather than the Creator.”

First off, when did “feminism” become an anti-Christian sentiment? Oh, right, The Dark Ages. I am under the impression that Mary, Deborah, Judith, Susanna, and Junia are all female names. But right, they were cut from the Bible (4th Century), relegated to the hidden places, and then Mary (one of them, anyway) was transformed by Pope Gregory (6th Century) into a prostitute and Eve was . . . . Nevermind, we know how that goes.

More importantly, I don’t know any Pagans who “worship nature.” I mean, unless I’ve been misunderstanding y’all for a quarter-century.[10] I know plenty who revere nature; but s’far as I know, there’s a whole lot more “god” and “goddess” being venerated. And I’ve heard a whole lotta “Nature is God is Nature is God” and I agree. As for me, I pray to intercessory gods, but I worship The Creator. Granted, I am panetheistic (with a li’l pandeist for flavor) and believe that all of Creation is inseparable from The Creator and that there is a Divinity that extends beyond what is immediately and logically perceptible. But that’s me. I don’t speak for y’all and your interpersonal experiences with The Divine. I mean, who does that?

Next, the article goes off on the Wiccan Rede, claiming that “Wiccans hold that moral and religious truths are ultimately relative” and that “the Wiccan worldview stands in direct opposition to the biblical notions of absolute moral truth.”

Um, really? The Bible has “notations of absolute moral truth.” OK then, all you theologians can go home now. Those who study Biblical hermeneutics and Midrash are done for the day. Lose your WWJD? bracelets and take five; The Christian Research Institute has it all in hand.

Besides that ridiculousness, I don’t think we practice “moral relativity.” Do you? Most Pagans, in my experience, have a sense of right and wrong which is, in my opinion, much stricter than the modern interpretation of Biblical ethics. My understanding of The Law of Return (also taught as a parable by The Christ in Matthew 13) involves a far more complexly nuanced set of values and responsibilities than the simplistic absolutist teachings of the Christian Church. None of these value judgments conflict with the Red Letters of the Bible, but rather run up against the authoritarian Medieval and Moral Majority enforcement of the post-Crucifixion Church-Building gospels. Mostly those involving folks’ sexuality and the “place” of women. No one seems to want to discuss Christ’s definition of all humanity as equal “children of God,” his prohibitions against material greed, or his admonitions to love unconditionally, maintain a sense of humility, and create and preserve peace.[11] All very Pagan values.

The article wraps up with the complaint that, “Wiccans practice magick (spelled with a k to differentiate it from conjuring for entertainment) in an attempt to manipulate the natural world and alter mental and material conditions. As such, Wicca is an esoteric occult practice designed to manipulate reality in concert with the Wiccan’s will.”

A) Don’t get The Bad Witch going on that K. All of Gardner’s texts spell “magic” without the K. That was Crowley and an entirely different religious system.

B) This author’s definition of magic sounds an awful lot like “prayer” to me.

C) Wicca is a religion, not a practice. I know plenty of Wiccans who don’t “do magic.” Just like I know lots of Christians who don’t pray.

The argument seems to be that “Scripture unequivocally condemns all occult practices as detestable to the Lord,” citing Deuteronomy 18:10–12; Acts 13:6–11; 16:16–18; and Galatians 5:19–21.

First, let me say that the article’s author used The King James version of the Bible.[12] There is no mention of the Apocrypha or the Gnostic Gospels. There is no mention of translations in the Septuagint or the Vulgate or any translation prior to James’ – written during The Inquisition and European Witch Hunts. The history of the relationship between James and the persecution of Witches is well known (but in case you missed the memo, here’s a summary article) and most people understand that the KJV statement that none should “suffer a witch to live” (Exodus 22.18) really refers prohibitions against poison, but because of personal obsessive fears, King James changed “poisoner” to “witch.”[13] Look it up.

Sure, there are Biblical prohibitions against sorcery. But then again, the Torah was all about establishing a new community with a new religion. Of course the rules are going to be, “Don’t do what the Egyptians did.” (There are over 600 commandments, btw. Not just 10. ) The rules prohibiting Ov and Yidoni have very little, if anything, to do with Gardnerian Wicca.

Besides, of all of the prohibitions against Witchcraft-y things in the Bible, some of our greatest heroes employed them. I’m getting long-winded here, so I’ll save this part for another post. For now, just have a looksee at this and this and this and this book (which I plan to review for you soon( and this book (which I have to finish so I can include it in said review).

Finally, I’d like to talk about the “exclusive salvation through Jesus Christ who alone is ‘the way and the truth and the life.’”

Now, I’m a Johnian when it comes to Christology. But John 14:6 really rubs me the wrong way. Mostly, because, all too often, it is used to “prove” that Christianity is the *only* way to God (“I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me”). But, nowhere else in all of the gospels does Jesus speak of himself with exalted titles or of “one exclusive way.” I mean, The Christ tells us how we may not have access to the divine,[14] but other than in John, he never says – “only one path to the divine.” The statement is very unlike the Jesus who said, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” and “Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me” (Matthew 25:40 & 45) and “For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted” (Matthew 23:12). To use John’s verse to justify exclusivism is, in my opinion, grossly simplistic. After all, when you sin against your fellow human, you sin against Christ (1 Corinthians 8:12). Look at it this way too: the Gospel of John (typically attributed to the “beloved disciple” of Jesus – John of Zebedee) was written around 100 CE, more than 50 years after John of Zebedee was beheaded by Agrippa I (in 44 CE). So, we have to understand the quote as one of “church-building” not one of Christ’s actual propensities toward elitism. (Christ the Snob, can you imagine?)

But moreso than Jesus’ persona, logical apolitical translation dictates that we not understand John’s statement as exclusivity. Can I get an Aramaic dictionary please?[15] The word translated into the Greek to mean “I” is, in the original Aramaic (which John (ironically) used so fitly to make Christ less snobby), “ena-ena.” The problem is that ena-ena does not actually connote a singular individual “I” but rather a “comprehensive-universal I” – more like ʾehyeh ʾašer ʾehyeh or “I am that I am” (Exodus 3: 13-14). Further, the word for “comes” is “erchetai,” a present tense verb. Jesus, talking to his disciples after telling them he would soon die, was comforting them in the now – not prescribing limitations for all time.[16] So, to understand it properly,

John: 14:6 actually says: “The Great I Am is the truth, the way, and the life. I’ll show you how to get there.” Therefore, if you know El, the God of Israel, or if you know Brahman, or the Tao, or Ahura Mazda, or Wakan Tanka, or The Great Creator, The Almighty, The Alfather, or any Divine essence representing The Logos of the Greek philosophers, then you know The Great I Am. After all, it is John who points us to the Logos as Creator, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). When it comes to the Divine, we have to concede that, “Ultimate Reality is beyond all cultures and the human capacity to know, it is in the broad, fundamental identity of apprehension that all cultures across the world find” (fausto. “Reinterpreting John 14:6.” the Socinian 24 September 2005. Web. 23 June 2012).

So, in the end, this is The Bad Witch’s response to some of Christianity’s misapprehensions concerning Witchcraft. While the CRI article addresses Wicca by name, I assume it intends to challenge all forms of Witchcraft and Occult Practices. Most of what I’ve said here applies broadly to my understanding of Wicca, Druidry, Heathenry of all flavors, Witchcraft of all shapes and sizes, and Ceremonial Magic(k) (which often calls directly on the Judeo-Christian God) of all sorts.

I’ll give Satanism its own post – someday.

May God (by what ever name you call upon) Bless You, Introduce You to the Infinite Magic of Quarks, and Remind You that Love is the Law (aka: BB, Quarks, and 93),
TBW

[1]               “What’s Wrong With Wicca?” Christian Research Institute. CRI, 15 December 2010. Articles. Web. 18 June 2012.

[2]               Ritchie, Mark Andrew.  Christian Research Institute. CRI, 10 June 2009. Articles. Web. 18 June 2012.

Ritchie, Mark Andrew. Christian Research Journal 25. 4 (2003). Print.

[3] I can recall being ten or eleven when she came home from a “mission trip” lauding her apostles for having converted Indians. I asked her, as ingenuously as I could muster: “Do you mean they aren’t Indian anymore?” Even when I was ten, no one mistook The Bad Witch for naive.

[4] The attempted enthymeme ran like a bit like this:

Premise: homosexuality is an “unhealthy” and “unnatural” lifestyle.

Primary rationale: promiscuity is unhealthy and homosexuals are promiscuous. (Disregard everything involving (specifically late-twentieth-century-American) acculturation and stereotyping.)

Secondary rationale: we may disregard all science showing that homosexuality is a naturally occurring (in 10% or more of the human population) orientation whenever we are able to terrorize a population into recanting their expressions of self-identity. Use only the grossly outdated and outmoded (and therefore attackable) Kinsey Report as evidence to the contrary.

Ta-da!

[5] Because I have a feeling this article will have readers that don’t bother to go back and check my credentials before attacking them.

[6] Until the whole “women should not handle Eucharistic wine” brouhaha which split my local parish into warring factions separated firmly by a stone aisle and disrupted my discernment committee to the point of dysfunction.

[7] The Bad Witch is *not* my legal name.

[8] And I have a pretty clear, theoretical, intellectual, and spiritual understanding of the mythological-historical figures Lucifer, Mephistopheles, Beelzebub, and the concept of Satan as opposed to The Boogie Man.

[9] Hear me on this – these are some of the most God-fearing Christian women in Alabama. They are, however, non-judgmental, open-minded, loving women. They are also business-owning, PhD toting, pro-weed, pro-choice (though also predominantly pro-abstinence), tattooed, drinking, swearing, smoking (and smoking-hot) women. One is recently married to a man who good-humoredly refers to them, not as Christians, but as “Christ-y” to differentiate their Christ-like belief system from what has become of the institution of the Pauline Church.

[10] And if I am, please tell me. I need to know these things.

[11] No one but The Bad Witch and a few of us Wicked Pagans.

[12] I can remember a recent conversation with The Bad Husband, woefully miseducated by Carmelites, which ended with his interjection: “There’s more than one version?!” According to one of the aforementioned Christian women, a staunch Catholic raised on the Douai Bible (a not apolitical version itself), “The first time [she] read the King James Bible, [she] said, ‘What is this shit?’”

[13] In the Hebrew Scriptures, the Hebrew word for such an individual is m’khashepah / m’khaseph. In the New Testament, a criminal who murders people by secretly preparing and administering poisons, “pharmakia,” from which we derive “pharmacy,” was translated as “witchcraft.” Burn her, she’s a . . . pharmacist!

[14] “What is highly valued among men is detestable in God’s sight” and the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:14-31) and “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” (Matthew 19:24 likewise Mark 10:25 and Luke 18:25).

[15] This is where The Bad Witch rocks – wrote a whole thesis on John’s use of “Eloi Eloi lama sabachthani?”

[16] Historical decontextualization is my hermeneutic pet-peeve.

Wannabeathans

I’ve been mulling around the idea of “reclaiming seiðr” and trying to think about some ways to broach the subject that I don’t see a lot of Heathens doing “Magic(k)” anymore. And, in trying to write a post about reclaiming seiðr, I ended up with a different can of worms.

I apologize a post ahead of time if there are pockets of practitioners across the country who engage in galstar (galsterei). Please feel free to bring yourselves to my attention; I’ve been looking for you.

In my neck-of-the-woods, we have little more than moothorn-heralds who blót for the sake of mead consumption, neo-nazis, and “wannabeathens.”

It pisses me off.

And this is where the can of pissed-off worms opened up.

Wannabeathen is how I think of Witches/Heathens (not just Ásatrúar) who want to claim a non-Wiccan practice and yet temper all of their practices with the commodified tenets of Wicca. It’s rude and judgmental of me, I know. I admit this. But when The Bad Witch is pissed off, I tend not to care if I offend those whose rationale I find unambiguously offensive.

If you are a Heathen (or Native or Voodooisant or Solomonic), bother to find out what Heathen (Native, Voodoo, Magickal) practices and values are. Don’t be oblivious and think that you can just “substitute” Wicca for Heathenism (Nativisms, Voodoo, Sorcery).

If you are Wiccan, practicing Wiccan practices and valuing Wiccan values, call yourself Wiccan, for pete’s sake. There’s no problem with those who choose that path. Owning it is certainly more respectable than hiding behind Heathenry (Native Practice, Voodoo, Sorcery) while deriding and yet perpetuating neo-Trads like Wicca.[1]

It’s the deriding that gets me. Don’t say, “I can’t stand that Wicca-shite,” and then pull out your triple goddess circlet and cast a circle using an athame.

The problem is – hang on, I’m having a hard time putting this into words. The problems are multiple and complex. (Let me put on my lawyer-hat for a minute.)

  • I consider the designation “Wicca” to refer to the stuff that stems from Gardner.
  • Wicca is lovely. [2]
  • However, most folks don’t have a clue about Gardnerian/Alexandrian/Whateverian Wicca but pick and choose an “eclectic” path. This too is totally lovely. Find your god where your god is. All paths lead to the divine. Eventually.

My problem is with those who want to say that they are not Wiccan, yet still manage to co-opt all of their practices from Wicca. I know too many “witches” who purport to be practicing “ancient ways” or “ways of the elders” and yet look up their rituals and correspondences in Bucklands’ or Cunninghams’.[3] Or, eek, non-reviewed online sources. To me, this smacks of ignorance. It says to me, “I don’t want to be called Wiccan and therefore will call myself *this.*” And yet the *this* they end up practicing is a mangled sort of watered-down Wicca.

Why not just go through proper training?  (Whether with a coven or in solitary.) Wicca is a fine tradition, why evade it? If it’s your thing, embrace it. If it’s not your thing, quit co-opting it, deriding it, and calling it something else. Condemnant quod non intellegunt, no?

Why not just train and do right?

Oh, wait, now I remember: Discipline. Ego. Entitlement. Competition. Title-whoring.

As I see it, the reason many people (and I don’t mean this to apply to my readership, I mean some in my local circle with whom I’ve had many a sit-down) resist being called Wiccan is that they resent the system of elevations and designations. Many times, they resent the system because they don’t want to go through (or don’t know how to begin) the arduous series of initiations and formalized training involved with formal-traditions.

Lots of Witches would prefer to simply *start out* as High Priestess, without going through the training. (I laugh at them. This too is rude and judgmental. Nonetheless, “Bahahahaha.”)

Again with the lawyer hat:

I’m not valuing formal-traditions over informal ones. I’m just saying – if you have an instinctive practice (this would, by definition, *not* be a tradition), quit annexing Wicca. I write about Wicca colonizing the rest of Witchcraft, but the door swings both ways. Those who don’t know where else to go for their information on . . . say . . . celebrating the Summer Solstice in a Diné or Tsalagi tradition, end up turning to neo-Celtic and Wiccan “Litha” rituals.

And this is totally fine – as long as you own it.

Again, I’m not saying that a Homa or Osage cannot practice Wicca. Neither am I saying that White Bread from Illinois cannot practice the ways of the elders. (Hot damn, I’m defensive today.) I’m just saying – call it what it is. Own it!

I’ve a house to clean and another to go look at (I may be buying the farm sooner rather than later – both literally and figuratively). I’ll come back to my diatribe on wannabeathans soon. I’ll bet you can’t wait.

Til then, be true to yourself.

B, Q, 93,

TBW


[1] Go ahead, argue that Heathenism is a neo-Trad. Ásatrú, sure. In my book, Ásatrú and Odinism are about as neo as Gardner, if not more. I’m talking about esoteric Heathenry as is found in texts from pockets of The Black Forest where the tribes executed the bishops and cardinals who tried to clear their groves. Anyone notice The Black Forest is still standing? Just saying. Sure, it’s littered with cathedrals too. But “Indians” were taught to “Pray” and yet were able to maintain their spirituality. And if you want to argue that actual handed-down-Native-American practices is neo, – let’s fight.

[2] Though I was trained in it from the ages of nineteen to twenty-eight (through six of seven elevations), I am not (now) Wiccan. Having spent the last few months going over my initiation “folders” (Giant-ass binders that weigh a freaking ton and have many of my notes written in pink glitter-gel pen. Wow.) I find that I am being slapped silly with the things I had forgotten in the trauma that was “moving to Alabama” and being totally solitary for ten years.

[3] Perfectly fine resources – for Wiccans.

What is Paganism?

Merry Meet!

Okay, so you have this page in front of you.

This can mean one of two things: either you are interested in Paganism and are looking for a little guidance or someone you know (and likely love) is interested in Paganism and you are looking for a little guidance. It can also mean that you are interested in slamming Paganism or “proving” that Paganism is “Satanic.” If you are one of the former, you are in luck! If you are the latter, you might want to click elsewhere since The Bad Witch will go a long way from satiating your appetite.

If you are a parent and your child has announced that s/he feels led to a Pagan path, take a deep breath. The panic induced pseudo-coronary arrest will pass. Before you start jumping the gun, searching The Yellow Pages for an exorcist, calling Christine O’Donnell for advice, or sneaking holy water into your child’s bath, relax and read on. If you give me just a few minutes, I think The Bad Witch can make you feel better.

First, let me introduce myself. I am The Bad Witch. I call myself this (unabashedly in third person) not because I am “bad” or “evil” (whatever those terms mean to you), but because I am not afraid to talk about both sides of the coin. There are plenty of Pagans, lovingly referred to as “Fluffy Bunnies” who only want to talk about “light” and “white” and “good” (please read the Wikipedia entry for “Fluffybunnies”; it will make your heart happy). I don’t live in that world. In my neighborhood, there are harmful things. Lucky for you, I have stumbled into a lot of them and can tell you which pitfalls to avoid – that is, if you want me to. There are also a lot of “Playgans” who use “religion” and “ritual” as an excuse to imbibe in chemicals, in sexual extravagance, and adherent social behaviors. And, of course, there are plenty of “HollyWiccans” out there who believe that Charmed is real witchcraft, that The Craft is the religious equivalent to Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments, and that Harry Potter is the Second Coming. I’m not them and I will call them out. Sometimes loudly. In doing so, in my own community, I have earned the nomenclature: “Bad Witch.” I wear it proudly.

Fortunately, this demographic does not make up the whole – or even the majority – of Pagans. (They just tend to be the most visible.)

So what is a Pagan?

In simplest terms Paganism is a set of, typically polytheistic, religions characterized by a connection to and a reverence for nature. (For a breakdown of some “traditions,” have a look at About.com and Llewellyn Worldwide’s article on Chaos Magic.)

The most common forms of Modern Paganism or Neopaganism, as practiced in the West, are, for the most part, descended from Celtic origins. But this paints a broad stroke. There are plenty of Pagan traditions that do not fall in line with Celtic traditions. There are Norse traditions, Egyptian traditions, and Gnostic and Esoteric Mystery traditions, to name a few. And each of those have varying permutations and individual belief systems which stem in all directions. Paganism is as much a personal spiritual path as Islam or Christianity. To try to boil all Pagans in one cauldron is very like the Lutheran calling the Methodist “Protestant.” (There’s my little Reformation joke for you.) There are even plenty of people who consider themselves Pagan and yet do not follow a given tradition. Many Pagans don’t even belong to a group of fellow Pagans (i.e., coven, church, congregation, etc.).

Let me be very clear about one thing: all Wiccans are Witches but not all Witches are Wiccan. Wicca is not another name for Witchcraft. Wicca is specific religious path. It is a mix of various practices, recently put together by Gerald Gardner. The Bad Witch respects Wicca but does not practice Wicca.

Just like all Baptists are Christian but not all Christians are Baptists. Take this example to the Southern variety of the Baptist convention – not all Baptists are Southern Baptists. There are those who practice Witchcraft but do not ascribe to or identify themselves with Wicca (like yours truly).

Further, not all Witches are Pagan and not all Pagans are Witches. Likewise not all Witches are occultists, and not all occultists are Witches. As a matter of fact, many occultists are also Christian, Jewish, Islamic, Hindu, Buddhist, etc. Because occult studies focus on “supernatural influences, agencies, or phenomena,” the occult is not contradictory to monotheism and Christianity. After all, The Holy Spirit, angelic influences, and even demonic influences (think exorcism) are part and parcel of many monotheistic religions.

Pagans, as a general rule, revere Nature. Pagans typically live their lives attuned to the cycles of Nature, the seasons, life and death. Because of this, ecological sustainability and anti-cruelty movements tend to be supported vehemently by Pagans. For this reason, many Pagans are vegetarians and Vegans, though there is no “religious” prohibition against eating animal products. As a matter of fact, many pagan practices include hunting as part of their ritual practices.

Pagans tend to see the divine as indwelling in all parts of life: in every tree, plant, animal and object. Pagans imagine the divine immanence of every man and woman. Much like Abrahamic religions, these deities are within us as well as without us; however, unlike Abrahamic deities, Pagan deities are us. And many of us recognize the divine immanence of the dark side of life as much as in the light.

Unlike patriarchal religions, the divine tends to be female as well as male (therefore there is a Goddess as well as a God). The Goddess represents all that is female and the God represents all that is male. But because nature is seen as female the Goddess has a wider meaning. The Gods of the major world religions are imagined as above and apart from nature (supernatural) whereas Pagan deities are natural and stand in for various aspects of nature or human nature.

But it’s not that simple. There is usually also a Supreme Creator, which closely equates to the God of the patriarchal religions. The God and Goddess are existent as divided from and yet one with the Great Spirit, the Supreme Creator, or “Akasa.” There are sub-groups of named Gods and Goddesses called Pantheons. If you can conceptualize the Christian trinity, you can approximate the relationship between Creator, The Pantheon, and humans.

Some Pagans believe in angels and demons and believe that these entities can be summoned, communicated with, and asked for assistance in the terrestrial realm. However, Pagans have no concept of sin or Satan as he is defined in Christianity. Lucifer too.

This means that Pagans have a different conceptualization of demons. For the most part, demons are “lower” beings or “elemental” beings while angels are “higher” beings or “ethereal” beings. Here, higher and lower are not a value judgment but rather a “geography.” Demons have more to do with physical while angels have more to do with spiritual realms. The West has a tradition of valuing the mental and spiritual over the physical, thus the disapprobation of demons. With no sin and no Satan, there is no fiery hell to worry about either. Pagans have their own (rather strict at times) values, ethics, and belief in a system of universal retribution (think “karma”). As a matter of fact, the one almost universally accepted “rule” in Witchcraft is “Harm None.”

Pagans typically have a very strong moral compass. Simply because there is not a “Bible” does not mean that we do not have sacred texts – we have plenty. Simply because we do not have ten commandments, does not mean we don’t have rules. Think about it – all of the Judeo-Christian social commandments (the second five) would be unnecessary if we just followed the one rule: Harm None.

Which brings me to the afterlife (should I rephrase that?). Christianity imagines life and the world as linear i.e. having a beginning (creation) and an end (day of judgment). The Pagan view is predominantly circular – the endless cycle of the seasons, of death and rebirth. Each Pagan has his/her own view of creation ranging from hyper-scientific to utterly mystical to a blend of both. For instance, The Bad Witch sees science as the most mystical of all arts and identifies The Great God most easily when exploring arithmetic and physics – ooooooh, quantum theory is theology for me.

There tend to be far fewer hang-ups in Paganism as well. Pagan children tend not to suffer from homophobia, racism, jingoism, or xenophobia than their mainstream peers. My fifteen-year-old son likes to point out that “When you are part of the persecuted group, it makes you pretty accepting of others.” Pagan families tend to be passivist. But Pagans also serve in the military and own weapons (some of us reluctantly); some Pagans even hunt (many tribal Pagans see hunting as a large part of their identity).

Sex and nakedness are not usually the taboo subjects that they can be in the major religions. After all they are merely part of nature. Some Pagans worship “skyclad” (nude) but many do not. I do not. Typically skyclad ceremony are reserved for Wiccan high ritual when altered states of consciousness are achieved (via chant, drumming, dancing). Many Wiccans believe that clothing interferes with the biorhythms that are necessary for heightened consciousness. Therefore, no one is “looking” at anyone else’s nakedness. If anyone were to attend a skyclad rite in order to peek-a-boo, they’d find a Catch 22. The point of nudity is to achieve altered states; in an altered state, boobies don’t exist.

But don’t take this as a catchall. There are some traditions, like Voodoo, that prohibit nudity in ritual.

Generally, children do not get involved in rituals until at least 16 years old. The Bad Witch insists on the “age of majority.” In my state, this is 19. However, often, the children of Pagan families join in festivals such as dancing round the Maypole at Beltane (Bel-tah-nah) or round the bonfire on Lammas (Lah-mahs) – also called Lughnasadh (Loog-nah-sah), on Samhain (Sow-han), or on Imbolc (Im-bolk).

Pagan children are often very aware of the differences their families have from the surrounding culture. Many Pagans encourage their children to “keep a low profile” because the discrimination against Pagans remains palatable in theU.S.(and The Bad Witch lives in The Deep South to boot). The anti-Pagan sentiment in most American towns can be painful to adults, let alone growing young people. And it’s pretty ridiculous to ask a pre-teenager to defend things like making a corn dolly or lighting candles to Bridget. Most Pagan children still get Santa and they tend to understand the Jesus thing. But, they are likely familiar with the fact that the Christmas tree (Yule tree) is really a Pagan thing. Easter is a lot more Pagan than Christians tend to understand. On Samhain, Pagan children understand the reason all the other children are dressed in costumes, lighting Jack-o-Lanterns, and collecting “treats” from their community.

Finally, and this is a point of semantic contention, Pagans usually believe that there are varying levels of abilities. Some are more intuitive, some are more intellectual. Many witches believe that there are some hereditary elements to these propensities, just like everything else. If your father was a great musician, you will likely have more musical ability than any other Joe on the street. Whether this is genetic or based on upbringing and childhood surroundings, it doesn’t matter. Witches sometimes identify themselves as “born,” “generational,” or “taught.”

This may be why you (or your child/spouse/friend) feels a certain pull toward Paganism. While for many of you this attraction to Paganism reflects a rejection of dominant religious dogma and its accompanying fetters, some of you feel a true “calling” to this path. Who knows, it could be ancestral.

As ever, if you have any other questions, feel free to contact me at abadwitch@yahoo.com. I’ll do my best to provide some guidance.

Blessed be!

Much of this is The Bad Witch’s opinion and personal experience with folks in and out of the Craft. Take it or leave it.

Further reading (first set of listings are for information – later set is stuff The Bad Witch just loves):

http://www.amazon.com/Teen-Witch-Wicca-New-Generation/dp/1567187250

http://www.amazon.com/Spiral-Dance-Rebirth-Religion-Anniversary/dp/0062516329/ref=pd_sim_b_23

http://www.amazon.com/Ride-Silver-Broomstick-Generation-Witchcraft/dp/087542791X/ref=pd_bxgy_b_text_b

http://www.amazon.com/Wicca-Solitary-Practitioner-Authors-Shadows/dp/0875421180/ref=pd_sim_b_6

http://www.amazon.com/Witchdom-True-Edred-Thorsson/dp/1885972121/ref=cm_syf_dtl_pl_1_rlrssi0

http://www.amazon.com/Grimoire-Modern-Cunning-Folk-Witchcraft/dp/0984330216/ref=cm_syf_dtl_pl_4_rlrssi0

http://www.amazon.com/Wyrdworking-Saxon-Sorcerer-Alaric-Albertsson/dp/0738721336/ref=cm_syf_dtl_pl_10_rlrssi0

http://www.amazon.com/Way-Wyrd-Brian-Bates/dp/1401905013/ref=cm_syf_dtl_pl_14_rlrssi0

http://www.amazon.com/Witches-Bible-Complete-Handbook/dp/0919345921/ref=cm_syf_dtl_pl_15_rlrssi0

http://www.amazon.com/Lyblac-Anglo-Saxon-Witchcraft-Wulfeage/dp/1861632878/ref=cm_syf_dtl_pl_17_rlrssi0

For further growth:

http://www.amazon.com/Initiation-into-Hermetics-Franz-Bardon/dp/1885928068/ref=cm_syf_dtl_pl_23_rlrssi0

http://www.amazon.com/Liber-Null-Psychonaut-Introduction-Chaos/dp/0877286396/ref=cm_syf_dtl_pl_26_rlrssi0

http://www.amazon.com/Energy-Work-Healing-Spiritual-Development/dp/1571745408/ref=cm_syf_dtl_pl_29_rlrssi0