I have grown weary of mass misunderstanding. I’m sick to my bones of hiding what I believe, concealing the love and light in my heart due to societal ignorance. Having chosen a faith outside the comfy norm of the Christian monarchy, I’m outcast from those I love and have very little contact with others of my faith…coming full circle to the fact that we’re forced to be silent. I’ve found myself to be an odd mixture of emotions since I chose this path five years ago. My faith is the solid rock in my existence; my love for my deities the most certain, unwavering part of my soul. I find truth, happiness, and goodness in them. On the other hand, I’ve experienced such pain and prejudice as Their child. I would never wish such agony on another person. I’ve cried, I’ve hurt, and I’ve pleaded with Them to help me understand why I’m so misunderstood. So many people slide through life never knowing the true magnitude of intolerance, the scars left on the soul of the individual targeted.
The world is so full of beauty and wonder, it’s amazing how much hate can come from the people living in it. The Earth carries us on her back and nurtures us with her very essence. She shelters us, feeds us, waters us…without her we would not be. Her love has carried through untold eons while she gives without wanting in return. Just as a mother would, she punishes and purges as neccessary, and steady as a flowing river she’s still here and we are her history. SO why can’t people love and accept the way Mother Earth has for millenia?
My purpose in writing this is to clear up some things for the people I care about. Over time I’ve learned to ignore what people say or misinterpret about Wicca, but nothing cuts to the core quite like people I love functioning under assumptions quite far from the truth. I don’t ask that you agree with my choice of religion…it’s my life path, not yours. You never have to mention it, and after reading this, you can go back to pretending it doesn’t exist, but at least I’ll have the peace of mind knowing you understand what it is, not what Hollywood and the Medieval Christian Church have turned it into.
I am Wiccan. Pagan. A Witch. The word “pagan” is all-encompassing, used to describe religions other than the mainstream (aka Christianity, Judaism, and Islam) (Fae) usually meaning that one is not monotheistic, but polytheistic. As a Pagan, I am Wiccan, and that makes me a Witch. An easy explanation of understanding these terms is to look at it this way–“All Wiccans are Witches, but not all Witches are Wiccan” much like “All Baptists are Christian, but not all Christians are Baptists” (Fae)
When a non-Pagan individual hears the word ‘witch’, many images may come to mind. Stooped green lady, pointy hat, black robe, flying across a full moon sky aboard a broomstick? A cackling hag stirring a bubbling concoction inside a cauldron while chanting a rhyming tune beneath a darkened moon? How about “Charmed”? “Sabrina the Teenage Witch”? I bet even some people think of Satan. Let me debunk a few things…
Did you know the image of a Witch flying a broomstick is not myth? In the time before Christianity, farmers would bless their fields in the name of the deities by having a little shindig where young maidens would straddle a broomstick and run through the fields–this ensured fertility for the coming year. When Christian missionaries were spreading the word and passing through small farming villages, they would see these ‘witches’ (aka pagan people) doing this, the grasses in the field just high enough to make it look like they were flying above the ground. Flying before a swollen, full moon comes from the fact that goddess worshippers celebrate the moon as an aspect of Her, and therefore full moons are sacred.
The image of a Witch as an old hag lies in several different places. Witches celebrate old age as a wonderful time of life–the time of the Crone, when your life has passed and your wisdom has grown to astonishing limits. Old age is to be respected, old women to be looked up to and confided in. During the conversion of Christianity, the Christian church began spreading the image of the hag as evil. “The old, ugly woman was a symbol of death, her eyes being darkness, her body merely a skeleton of flesh and bones. This image was related to the neo-platonic idea of beauty, representing kindness, and ugliness, which represented evil.” (Maerten) If you have time or the inclination, check out the article at this link http://www.witchvox.com/va/dt_va.html?a=uswa&c=holidays&id=10214 It’s very well written and representative of the Witchy community and stereotypes.
The Cauldron and the Witch stems from mythology, notably a story of Cerridwen, a Welsh goddess known as the Keeper of the Cauldron. Instead of going into detail, if you want to know the story it can be found at this link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ceridwen
As for Witches being associated with Satan, I’ll get more into that later, but for right now a quote speaking of the time of Christian conversion: “The unexplainable was attributed to satanic power. Witches, who had the ‘unexplainable’ knowledge of herbs and plants, were ideal scapegoats” (Maerten) Anything unexplainable back then was explained by making it Satan’s doing. Healing by herbal remedies was unexplainable, as science was not an option at the time.
Witches are just like everyone else. We wear blue jeans and bright pink t-shirts. We eat fried chicken, drink orange juice, and watch bad comedy TV. We work for your schools, your supermarkets, and your law enforcement agencies. We play fetch with our pets and have drinks with friends at our favorite bars. We like to read, we fall in love, and, oh yeah, we don’t worship a singular masculine deity.
Many people are scared by the term ‘witch’. Hundreds of years ago, the Christian Church did everything in their power to put the fear of God (literally) into Pagan peoples in order to get them to convert. Let me clarify one thing–these people were not Wiccan. Wicca did not become a recognized religion until the 1900s. These people were ‘pagan’ in that they did not worship the Christian god, they followed the cycle of the seasons and probably worshipped many household deities. A smear campaign (for lack of a better way to put it) was launched on the Old Ways by the Church, and the repercussions on pagans from such has survived into today. Now, don’t misunderstand me–this is the Christian Church of long ago, still young and fresh on the scene and witnessing to the people in a bid for new members, not the Christian Church of today. As Wiccans, we don’t hold grudges on them (if someone says they do, they are not following a very important ethical tenant of my religion–to accept all positive religions as valid). The old church used the means available to it to get people to convert. The issue that arises from this stamping out of pagan ways, is that in today’s time we are left to pickup the pieces.
A Witch/Wicca ‘is a practitioner of a nature based, nature revering, or ‘folk’ belief system.’ (Fae) Our Earth has been given to us by the God and Goddess and we should therefore respect it. The God and Goddess are but two aspects of a whole, representative of the absolute balance in nature. Everything is in balance…male/female, dark/light, good/bad. Without this delicate balance, the universe would fall into chaos. Witches celebrate the changing seasons. Our holidays mark the Solstices and Equinoxes, as early farmers did in ancient times. We celebrate the cycles of the moon as a manifestation of the goddess, and we see in the sun the form of our God. The elements–earth, air, fire, water–play an important role in our religion as natural phenomena without which we could not survive. How a Wiccan relates to each element is based on his or her own preferences, but surprisingly a lot of it does lie in astrology. We revere the elements.
There is no Satan/Devil/Lucifer in Wicca or Witchcraft. We worship the god and goddess. We do not personify evil into a form to be feared or blamed. Good and bad are inherent in EVERY person, just as they are inherent in our deities. Our deities are good, honorable, loving…yet they can be vengeful, horrible creatures when neccessary (see tornadoes, mass death, crime, etc.) Each day a person is faced with choices upon choices to move them along the life cycle. The choices we make in life are what make us a good or bad person. As Wiccans, we believe our choices should be made based on the 3-Fold Law–every bad choice brings a reaction 3 times as bad back to us, and every good choice we make returns three fold as well. Being that we believe in the karma cycle, and we know that any bad choices we make will come back to haunt us either in this life or the next, that’s incentive enough for a Wicca rooted deep in her faith to never stray from the good path. Every human is responsible for his or her own actions. If an individual chooses to do evil, they will be punished. What goes around comes around.
‘Satan is part of the Christian/Muslim religions. Since Pagans are neither Christian or Muslim, Satan is not a part of our deity structure’ (Wren)
There is no such thing as a ‘good’ witch or a ‘bad’ witch; there are good or bad people from every walk of life, from every community. If you ask a witch if they are ‘good’ or ‘bad’, it’s as if you’re asking a Catholic whether they are a ‘good Catholic’ or a ‘bad Catholic’. ‘Witches, Druids, and other Pagan belief systems have their own ethical standards.’ (Wren) Being a good person is a personal choice, and through my faith and what it is I believe, I am a good person. Wiccans follow a set of ethical guidelines called ‘The Wiccan Rede’ (one version of it found here http://www.witchvox.com/va/dt_va.html?a=usfl&c=basics&id=2876) The most important guideline set forth in the Rede is ‘An it harm none do as thou will’. Meaning as witches it is against our very nature to cause harm to any living thing.
Some people mistakenly believe that the pentagram (5 pointed star encased in a circle) is a Satanist symbol. Allow me to set something straight. The pentagram is a very beloved symbol of Wicca that can be interpreted a couple different ways. Each of the five points stands for something distinctive to the Wiccan who wears it. My interpretation of the pentagram is each of the points representing Earth, Air, Fire, Water, and Me. The circle connecting the five points represents the god and goddess as the All that connects me to life and Earth. We all fit into this cozy little symbol that many of you know I wear around my neck. Before Wicca (a term of which wasn’t coined until the early 1900s) Christian Knights commonly used the pentagram as their symbol. Followers of Pythagoras (a Greek mathematician, mystic, and scientist who founded a religious movement called Pythagoreanism) wore a pentagram to recognize each other.
‘The symbol used by Satanists, which is commonly confused with the pentagram, is correctly called the Sigil of Baphomet; it is represented by an INVERTED pentagram, with a goat’s head superimposed.’ (xeno) Inverted means the five pointed star is turned UPSIDE DOWN to stand on it’s single point. This is the same thing they do with the cross. Just as the Christian Cross is not a Satanist symbol when it is displayed the proper way, neither is the Pentagram. I’ve inserted both versions of the pentagram into this post so you can see which is which. To the right is the sigil of Baphomet, aka the Satanist symbol. In the above paragraph is the pentagram, the Wiccan symbol.
Witches do cast spells as you hear every Halloween and on every supernatural TV show and movie. Once again, you will find this to be a very misunderstood aspect of being a Witch as well. Spells are a Wiccan’s version of prayer. When we light a candle and burn incense, then turn to the god and goddess for what we need in our life, that is our prayer to them for the change we are requesting. The entire world is comprised of usable energies, and spellwork is nothing but manipulating our own energies to request for needed change. When I burn a candle and chant the Charge of the Goddess (http://www.wicca.com/celtic/wicca/goddess.htm) beneath a pregnant Full Moon, I am honoring my Goddess and praying to her, though to someone not Wiccan it’s going to look a little strange.
A short list of other common Wiccan beliefs: Reincarnation and the existence of a realm known as the OtherWorld where we go between lives to await the next; a firm belief in the sanctity of ALL life, be it human, animal, or plant as we are all interconnected and a part of our deities; we tend to be very free spirits and independent thinkers with a love for nature and animals that extends to protecting both.
Wiccans do not witness or try to convert others to our beliefs, because that is a form of religious bigotry (that means if a person tries to convert another to his/her own beliefs, that person is assuming that the other person’s beliefs are not as valid as his/her own). ‘We feel that all paths are valid as long as they do not infringe upon the basic civil rights or free will of another’ (Wren). We believe that choosing a religion is a very personal choice and very personal path, because no one path is right for everyone. ‘Why can we not all accept the fact that we are seekers on the path of life? And as it is with such travelers, no one person has all of the answers’ (Crick).
My religion is a beautiful, powerful, positive path. Unfortunately, many people operate under assumptions put in place after hundreds of years of persecution, which seems to be the norm for religions that fall out of the mainstream. There have been several examples of modern persecution, including in May of 2006 when a Wiccan soldier died in combat. The pentagram was not on the list of ‘approved religious symbols’ for his memorial plaque, as the Department of Veteran Affairs did not recognize the symbol as valid. His family had to petition for it to be added, along with the rest of the American Pagan population. (you can read an article on it at http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/12979013/ ) Or the Wiccan family in Staten Island having their home damaged by neighbors because of being public about their religion (http://gothamist.com/2008/03/05/witch_hunt_in_s.php) Another example of ignorance is a comment made by Kathie Lee Gifford live on The Today Show ‘the nasty, bad pagans’ (http://www.theinsider.com/news/1024486_Kathie_Lee_Gifford_Is_Your_Moral_Authority) that raised a moral outcry from the Pagan community. Had she said ‘the nasty, bad jews’ instead, can you imagine the fallout?
How about us everyday American Pagans? I bet very few of you know of the many instances in which I’ve been persecuted for my beliefs. When I worked for Feeder’s Supply a few years ago I was helping a man in the Fish Department one evening. He happened to look down and notice the simple silver Pentacle around my neck and in the flash of an eye, he spit at my feet (thankfully not ON me) and told me I would be going straight to hell before walking away. What was the lesson I just gave? Wiccans do not believe in hell or satan, those are Christian concepts. Or when I was physically assaulted at the barbeque restaurant where I worked in Nashville, and when someone asked the girl later why she did it, she said, “Because she’s a witch!” Blessed be the bible belt. THIS STUFF HAPPENS IN REAL LIFE. To me, someone you care about. To others like me, who only want the freedom to believe in our chosen religion without facing intolerance, as is our RIGHT due in the United States Constitution under the freedom of religion.
There is so much intolerance in this world. African Americans face it, the Jewish have faced it, the female gender in the Middle East faces it, lesbians/gays face it…I am appalled at it all. I ache for the day when we can all accept each other no matter the color of skin, choice of religion, or choice of love. I have shared this all with you, my readers, because my religion is a significant part of who I am. I am mum about it most of the time because I know it is not accepted, even among the people I hold most dear in my life. I want my friends and family to love me for WHO I am, witch included, not DESPITE of it. That you are now educated and informed is all I ask.
I have said my piece and I’m done rambling, I only hope that everyone has hung in there long enough to finish this piece of writing. I put my heart and soul and four days worth of effort into it, backed by five years of biting my tongue at uninformed comments from those I love.
Sources I used/quoted within the above text:
http://www.rosadoc.be/site/rosa/english/pdf/factsheetsenglish/06.pdf Mieke Maerten The image of witches.
From the Stake to the Barricade.
http://www.xenosparadox.info/ (a guy’s personal blog)
So…Your Friend is a Witch? by Danjia Water Fae http://www.witchvox.com/va/dt_va.html?a=ustx&c=basics&id=11793
Witch/Wiccan FAQs by Wren http://www.witchvox.com/va/dt_va.html?a=usfl&c=basics&id=2870
Tears of A Witch by Crick, TNWitchesCircle (a personal writing)