The Changing Role of Men in Wicca

The Changing Role of Men in Wicca

Author:   Morgan Ravenwood   

It is unfortunate but too often true that male Wiccans find themselves relegated to a passive, almost non-existent role in Wicca and many other Pagan traditions, thereby depriving their female counterparts of some potentially useful interaction, observations and teachings.

While many Wiccan women would defend this stance by pointing out that the Abrahamic faiths are male-centered and that they came to Paganism to avoid being forced to submit to male authority, they fail to realize that any faith that places emphasis on one gender over another is simply out of balance and deprives its members of both spiritual satisfaction and education.

We Wiccans must remember that it was a man, Gerald Gardiner, who originally gave birth and identity to the faith we practice today. However, he didn’t do so all by himself—he a lot of help and encouragement from women such as Doreen Valiente. Perhaps that is why the Gardnerian tradition has always promoted gender equality. Since then there have been some notable male Pagans such as Stuart Farrar, Oberon Zell, Isaac Bonewits, and more recently, Kerr Cuhulain and Christopher Penczak (who has written a great deal about gay Wiccans, whose numbers continue to grow) whose knowledge and experience have benefited us all.

A quick overview of some of the major Wiccan traditions certainly doesn’t inspire a man to want to join most of them unless he is willing to play a subordinate—and submissive- –role. While ones such as the various Druid groups and the Alexandrian and Gardnerian traditions seem to be more welcoming to the male practitioner, others such as the Dianic and Avalonian traditions are strictly matrifocal with no male participation at all. There are endless lists of Wiccan female-only groups on the web as opposed to barely a handful for men. All of this amounts to the same kind of sexism practiced by the mainstream religions, and is just as counter-productive.

We are all familiar with the concept of the Triple Goddess, which is of course worshiped by male and female Wiccans alike. While most female Wiccans relate the phases of the Goddess to our own lives, how do we apply this to the God, and in so doing, contemplate how this concept can be applied to men?

In my long years of study and correspondence with other practitioners, I have learned quite a bit from some very wise male Pagans. I recently asked some of them their opinions on this, and actually got some pretty similar answers, though one male friend said, “I hadn’t really ever thought about it!”

I can’t help but feeling that that is a very great shame indeed.

Equal gender identification really isn’t that difficult when you think about it. When we see the young Goddess as the Maiden, we could see her male counterpart as the Youth/Warrior/Student. As She reaches Her Mother stage, Her consort matures into the Father/Warrior/Hunter.

Opinions vary on when a woman has aged sufficiently to regard herself (and be regarded by others) as a “Crone, ” but on the other side of the coin, we again have her consort becoming an Elder/Sage/Grandfather. Though male Wiccans revere and venerate the Goddess in these various incarnations, might they not feel a little more comfortable if the God was given equal consideration?

Those female Wiccans who may belong to covens who worship the Goddess to the exclusion of the God might feel a little more in balance also.

When we look at the history of Paganism we find a large number of male deities such as Cernunnos, Dagda, Lugh, Cuchulainn, Pan, Osiris, Zeus, Apollo, and so many more. In ritual, particularly when petitioning for a special purpose, it is wise to aim such petitions towards a deity who may have certain characteristics particular to the object of the petition.

Male Wiccans especially may have certain issues that they feel more comfortable sharing with a male deity as opposed to a female one. That doesn’t mean, however, that they would (or should) eliminate worship of the Goddess in Her many forms—on the contrary, the male Wiccans of my acquaintance are very devoted to Her.

As in everything, balance and moderation are the keys.

We need look no further than our own Wheel of the Year to understand how important the God is to our religion. From Yule, when we celebrate the birth of the God, to Samhain, when He dies and prepares to be born yet again at Yule, our Sabbats are ironically centered on the God, with the Goddess both assisting and participating in a supporting (but no less important) role.

Consequently, it seems illogical and counter-productive to relegate the God along with male practitioners to a minor role in other Wiccan rites. While I am certainly not advocating the dissolution of all female-only covens, I DO encourage them to give some serious consideration to allowing serious male practitioners to participate in their rites. This would present many opportunities for fellowship and the sharing of knowledge, which would surely outweigh any perceived disadvantages.

The Religioustolerance.org website contains Edain McCoy’s description of the worship of Wiccan deities thusly: “We worship a deity that is both male and female, a mother Goddess and father God, who together created all that is, was, or will be. We respect life, cherish the free will of sentient beings, and accept the sacredness of all creation.” And yet, the same article also says, “Wiccans celebrate the sexual polarity of nature.

For example, the fertilizing rain is one manifestation of the male principle; the nurturing earth symbolizes the female. Females are respected as equal (and sometimes at a slightly higher rank) to males. A priestess is often the most senior person among covens — a local group of Wiccans. They aim for a female-male balance in most of their covens (local groups), although men are typically in the minority.”

The last sentence really reinforces the imbalance that exists in Wiccan practice and brings up a salient point: perhaps if more men chose to become involved in Wicca, it would drive up the numbers of Wiccan adherents and consequently make us more of a force to be reckoned with. The days of “broom closet” Wicca are coming to a close and we are already seeing the benefits such as the V.A. approval of the pentacle on the headstones of Wiccan veterans.

However, we must keep in mind that in order for more men to become interested in Wicca, they must be allowed equal consideration and status.

It’s a concept whose time has come.

Advertisements

Labeling Pagans and Other Impossible Tasks!

Labeling Pagans and Other Impossible Tasks!

Author:   Avren  

Elitist. Snob. Know-it-all… These are not names you would normally use to describe the Pagan community. This is the reason many of us filtered in to this diverse, and multi-faceted spiritual path. I felt much battered and bruised by my own self-imposed guilt when I turned from my previous path to God. Truth be told, I prayed to Him and Them the first transitional year. I was too terrified not to! Yet here I am today. I’ve worshiped and practiced now for almost ten years.

Fair warning to the more delicate of us, there is a lot of labels thrown around in this essay. To everyone else, get your B.S. goggles on, and don’t forget your earplugs!

I’m no “Fluffy Bunny” nor am I a “Cynical Badger, ” these are a couple of descriptive names used by Isaac Bonewits in his essay ’Making Fauna Pagans’ to describe many of this community. His essay is one of the top thirteen viewed on this site, and for good reason. I think everyone should view it. It is well written and to the point.

I recently read yet another essay where the author attempted to put down one or several of us by describing a particular type of Pagan as not “real.” In fact the whole theme seemed to revolve around not being real because you don’t put your biggest pentacle out there. This seems to be a very worrisome subject for lots of us, so I figured I might as well throw in my two cents.

I am not a part of a coven, nor do I interact with many of the Pagan community. I don’t think I am in anyway “better” or more “advanced, ” I’m just simpler. I’m sure there are lots of people out there who feel the same way I do. I don’t need reinforcements to follow my path. I interact with many of you here in this virtual community. While I thoroughly enjoy it, the separation that is integral in any safe online interaction serves me just fine. I love to read the voices of like minded people, I just can’t stand the pressure to be “right” or “in” or the most “real” (Usually under debate, who’s path was first) or whatever the term may be. To be fair the people I’ve communicated with have primarily been positive.

However, I ask this question. Why do we need to know who is more authentic? What’s more, who of us has the right to tell someone they are unreal and/or a fluffy bunny? (For people new to the term, this usually means one or more of the following: Flamboyant, inexperienced, know-it-all-two-book-reader. You get the picture. It’s someone who can act at times immature, yet claim to represent us all.)

I take my faith seriously, and I try to teach our young ones to love and respect our Lady as well. Do I need a face full of black makeup, or a neck full of pentacles to be “real?” Didn’t many of us leave our various paths sick to death of “Keeping up with the Jehovah’s?” You all know what I mean. My path is right for me. I’m not fake nor am I a flake.

Do you see the recurring theme here? Lots of labels. Bottom line, Too much make up = Fluffy Bunny. Too little = Not Pagan enough.

Is it possible that others are threatened by my ease and confidence with the Lord and Lady, when theirs is possibly shaky? Is that why they cannot share their Yuletide traditions with those people they love, while simultaneously celebrating their loved ones holiday as well?

I’m not a traitor; I just don’t feel the need to dredge up a history lesson, when my mom says “Merry Christmas.” She isn’t saying it to try to make me conform; she is just saying a small blessing in her most comfortable way. If anyone wishes to label me, try these on for size: Forgiving, Non-Judgmental, And Real (a personal favorite) , or just plain Happy. I don’t live in a bubble, or take happy pills. I live day to day, and try to look on the bright side. (NOT always easy when times are tough, not to mention being a Scorpio who can see B.S. everywhere I look.)

I think the issue with the folks who need to label, is the simple fact that the Pagan community at large wouldn’t wear a label, even if it fit and was made of 100% recycled paper! Are these hypocrite Pagans too afraid to branch out on their own? Are they too afraid to use the brain the Lord and Lady gave them to think of their own traditions?

We as Pagans don’t have the “Word, ” and I for one am grateful. I never liked the thought of only one way. Is it this lack of black and white, mixed with a whole lotta grey that causes the uproar? Who among us hasn’t struggled with identity in this Craft? There isn’t anything like being under enemy fire, and trying to explain your spiritual roots. The sad thing is, however; the firing brigade that often awaits in our own camp.

I suppose you could look at this essay as a “can’t we all get along” type, and maybe it is. Why can’t we all get along? We teach our kids this, and we also tell other people we don’t judge people by their faith. (Unlike some monotheistic faiths) Why don’t we see more essays on how to cast, or some neat meditation techniques we might have? How about traditions that are neat to pass down.

I recently walked through the forest. What an experience. The pine trees smelled of secrets and childhood. The green was so vibrant it almost hurt the eyes. I shared woods lore my grandparents taught me with our two children. I explained how seeds work, and we counted the rings of the tree that gave its life for our holiday. We also gave thanks to it, and the earth for giving it to us. This is new to them, (I’m the stepmom) but they enjoyed it anyway. I felt Them around us. Who needs a church? I wrote this, by the way, as an example of what we COULD be sharing.

I worship this way. I tend my garden with a joyful and grateful heart. I pray to Them, and I give back to Them. I don’t wear a Pentacle, I don’t advertise period. I don’t need it, and neither do They. If this isn’t Pagan enough, I sincerely don’t care. I have nothing to prove, and I don’t believe my path is the only right one. I’ll celebrate mine, if you celebrate yours! (Small joke) Why can’t more of us feel the same?

So the next time you catch yourself judging the Pagan next to you, relax and remember that we are all different, but They know who we are

__________________________________

Footnotes:
Issac Bonewits ‘Making Fauna Pagans’

One Voice United

One Voice United

Author:   Lady Fenix   

Wiccan, Pagan, Heathen, Celtic, Shaman, Druid, Witch, etc. The list can go on and on to include different paths within each chosen label. The thing that gives me concern is that we in the community spend so much time defining ourselves that we forget that we are one.

Our goals are the same and each one of us has the same feelings inside us. The reason our path lacks so much understanding from the public is that everyone gives a different explanation as to what the craft is. We (meaning everyone in every path) need to come together and stand as one voice united and proclaim a set of guidelines that thoroughly define the Wiccan faith. (I use the word Wiccan here to encompass all.) Regardless of what path you practice within the religion, we all strictly adhere to the Rede or some form of a code of Ethics.

It is a sad time when our troops cannot get the respect they so richly deserve when it comes to the headstone symbol in a national cemetery. It is also sad that when going to a job interview, a Wiccan removes a ring or necklace that has anything to do with their religion out of fear of not getting the job offer. It is emotionally draining that they have to choke back the desire to speak out against the stereotypes of a witch that are hanging all around their child’s schools during one of our biggest holidays.

We all look back at the persecution of our ancestors and even of people who were not practicing the craft and our hearts ache. Yet we sometimes fail to see the persecution that is still going on all around us today. Why is that we must hide in broom closets when other religious group are not having to hide who they are?

Wiccans are not a threat to society and that is obvious to anyone who has examined Wiccans and Wicca. Yet far too many do not bother to look deeper at the slanderous accusations and merely believe them to be true. The hand fasting I had always wanted never happened due to fear of us casting circles and performing the “forbidden witchcraft” in front of a family that was Christian.

In one man’s words and the best way I have ever heard it put, “Christians have oppressed Jews, Moslems, Buddhists, Pagans, and each other throughout their centuries of power, preaching religious intolerance as the word of Jehovah whenever they had the military, political, or economic power to make it stick — and then piously preaching brotherhood, peace, and toleration when they didn’t.” (Isaac Bonewits)

That being said, maybe it is time that we formed an inner faith council. I am not talking just on a local level. I am talking a state council and the head of that state council would sit as a member of National Council. We need lobbyist to talk to people. A council of elders that will ultimately represent our path.

I personally stood in front of a class of my peers in the middle of the Bible belt dressed in full ceremonial garb and gave a power point presentation on Wicca. Many people were relieved after I explained to them what Wicca was and even asked for sachets, soaps and such.

We need to let the public know that we are not a passing “fad religion” and that we are a religion that is here to stay. Wicca is one of the fastest growing religions in the U.S. and well, ladies and gents, like it or not, opposition to it is growing as well.

Education and a united front is the only way that our faith will be recognized as such. We need public speakers to go to businesses, colleges, and city councils to educate people about our faith. They do not need to know the inner workings of each faith just be given a broad spectrum of what it is about. Let the public know that we are healers, educators, and friends of all.

Let them know that we do not do evil things and we are not what make things go BUMP in the night. God and Goddess willing we may even be able through hard work to form an alliance with other religions that people know little about and have huge fairs where each religion gets a voice. A fair where the public will be able to openly attend and learn.

We need to allow all to participate in the faith and see that it is truly a religion of love and understanding and that there are consequences for ones actions. We hide in shadows and continually allow Hollywood to make anything that has to do with our faith into something evil. Why are we not screaming at the thought of that?

This turning a blind eye or speaking out against it at home simply will not do. As long as we allow people to portray us this way then the mass society will continue to see us this way.

This is a plea to everyone to finally lay down his or her differences within our faith.

Again to stand as One Voice United.

This is a call to the open leaders of the community, the authors, shop owners, and any other open Wiccan that has a mass audience, to come together. Stop letting our differences give the public a reason to doubt the validity of our faith. Stop allowing the horrendous stereotypes that invoke fear in those that know little or nothing of our faith to go unchallenged.

It would be great to see covens and groups nominate officials for their area and who would all come together and discuss how tomorrow will unfold for our faith. This may not change things for the Wiccans of today, but we need to build a better path for the Wiccans of tomorrow.

This is our chance to leave a legacy that our children can be proud of. A chance to change things so that they do not have to hide in a broom closet…so they can wear their religious jewelry without fear.

I beg all of you please: Lets finally have “ONE VOICE UNITED.”

Foxia Rowan Moon

_____________________________________________

Footnotes:
Christians have oppressed Jews, Moslems, Buddhists, Pagans, and each other throughout their centuries of power, preaching religious intolerance as the word of Jehovah whenever they had the military, political, or economic power to make it stick — and then piously preaching brotherhood, peace, and toleration when they didn’t.”  — Isaac Bonewits

Also a website about Wicca..
http://www.holysmoke.org/wicca/wicca_defense.html

The Ethics of Love Spells by Mike Nichols

The Ethics of Love Spells    
      
   by Mike Nichols
by Mike Nichols

To gain the love of someone: On a night of the full moon, walk to a spot beneath your beloved’s bedroom window, and whisper his/her name three times to the nightwind. –Ozark love spell

It seems to be an immutable law of nature. You are interviewed by a local radio or TV station, or in some local newspaper. The topic of the interview is Witchcraft or Paganism, and you spend the better part of an hour brilliantly articulating your beliefs, your devotion to Goddess and nature, the difference between Witchcraft and Satanism, and generally enlightening the public at large. The next day, you are flooded with calls. Is it people complimenting you on such a splendid interview? No. People wanting to find out more about the religion of Wicca? Huh-uh. People who are even vaguely interested in what you had to say??? Nope. Who is it? It’s people asking you to do a love spell for them!

This used to drive me nuts. I’d take a deep breath and patiently explain (for the thousandth time) why I won’t even do love spells for myself, let alone anyone else. This generally resulted in my caller becoming either angry or defensive, but seldom more enlightened. ‘But don’t you DO magic?’, they ask. ‘Only occasionally,’ I answer. ‘And aren’t most magic spells love spells?’, they persist. That was the line I really hated, because I knew they were right! At least, if you look at the table of contents of most books on magic, you’ll find more love spells than any other kind. This seems as true for the medieval grimoire as for the modern drugstore paperback.

Why? Why so many books containing so many love spells? Why such an emphasis on a kind of magic that I, personally, have always considered very negative? And to make matters even more confusing, the books that do take the trouble of dividing spells between ‘positve’ and ‘negative’ magic invariably list love spells under the first heading. After all, they would argue, love is a good thing. There can never be too much of it. Therefore, any spell that brings about love must be a GOOD spell. Never mind that the spell puts a straightjacket on another’s free will, and then drops it in cement for good measure

And that is why I had always assumed love magic to be negative magic. Years ago, one of the first things I learned as a novice Witch was something called the Witch’s Rede, a kind of ‘golden rule’ in traditional Witchcraft. It states, ‘An it harm none, do what thou will.’ One uses this rede as a kind of ethical litmus test for a spell. If the spell brings harm to someone — anyone (including yourself!) — then don’t do it! Unfortunately, this rule contains a loophole big enough to fly a broom through. It’s commonly expressed, ‘Oh, this won’t HARM them; it’s really for their own good.’ When you hear someone say that, take cover, because something especially nasty is about to happen.

That’s why I had to develop my own version of the Witch’s Rede. Mine says that if a spell harms anyone, OR LIMITS THEIR FREEDOM OF THOUGHT OR ACTION IN ANY WAY, then consider it negative, and don’t do it. Pretty strict, you say? Perhaps. But there’s another law in Witchcraft called the Law of Threefold Return. This says that whatever power you send out, eventually comes back to you three times more powerful. So I take no chances. And love spells, of the typical make-Bobby-love-me type, definitely have an impact on another’s free will.

So why are they so common? It’s taken me years to make peace with this, but I think I finally understand. The plain truth is that most of us NEED love. Without it, our lives are empty and miserable. After our basic survival needs have been met, we must have affection and companionship for a full life. And if it will not come of its own accord, some of us may be tempted to FORCE it to come. And nothing can be as painful as loving someone who doesn’t love you back. Consequently, the most common, garden-variety spell in the world is the love spell.

Is there ever a way to do a love spell and yet stay within the parameters of the Witch’s Rede? Possibly. Some teachers have argued that if a spell doesn’t attempt to attract a SPECIFIC person into your life, but rather attempts to attract the RIGHT person, whomever that may be, then it is not negative magic. Even so, one should make sure that the spell finds people who are ‘right’ for each other — so that neither is harmed, and both are made happy.

Is there ever an excuse for the make-Bobby-love-me type of spell? Without endorsing this viewpoint, I must admit that the most cogent argument in its favor is the following: Whenever you fall in love with someone, you do everything in your power to impress them. You dress nicer, are more attentive, witty, and charming. And at the same time, you unconsciously set in motion some very powerful psychic forces. If you’ve ever walked into a room where someone has a crush on you, you know what I mean. You can FEEL it. Proponents of this school say that a love spell only takes the forces that are ALREADY there — MUST be there if you’re in love — and channels them more efficiently.

But the energy would be there just the same, whether or not you use a spell to focus it.

I won’t attempt to decide this one for you. People must arrive at their own set of ethics through their own considerations. However, I would call to your attention all the cautionary tales in folk magic about love spells gone awry. Also, if a love spell has been employed to join two people who are not naturally compatible, then one must keep pumping energy into the spell. And when one finally tires of this (and one will, because it is hard work!) then the spell will unravel amidst an emotional and psychic hurricane that will make the stormiest divorces seem calm by comparison. Not a pretty picture.

It should be noted that many spells that pass themselves off as love spells are, in reality, sex spells. Not that there’s anything surprising in that, since our most basic needs usually include sex. But I think we should be clear from the outset what kind of spell it is. And the same ethical standards used for love spells can often be applied to sex spells. Last year, the very quotable Isaac Bonewits, author of ‘Real Magic’, taught a sex magic class here at the Magick Lantern, and he tossed out the following rule of thumb: Decide what the mundane equivalent of your spell would be, and ask yourself if you could be arrested for it. For example, some spells are like sending a letter to your beloved in the mail, whereas other spells are tantamount to abduction. The former is perfectly legal and normal, whereas the latter is felonious.

One mitigating factor in your decisions may be the particular tradition of magic you follow. For example, I’ve often noticed that practitioners of Voudoun (Voodoo) and Santeria seem much more focused on the wants and needs of day-to-day living than on the abstruse ethical considerations we’ve been examining here. That’s not a value judgement — just an observation. For example, most followers of Wicca STILL don’t know how to react when a Santerian priest spills the blood of a chicken during a ritual — other than to feel pretty queasy. The ethics of one culture is not always the same as another.

And speaking of cultural traditions, another consideration is how a culture views love and sex. It has often been pointed out that in our predominant culture, love and sex are seen in very possessive terms, where the beloved is regarded as one’s personal property. If the spell uses this approach, treating a person as an object, jealously attempting to cut off all other relationships, then the ethics are seriously in doubt. However, if the spell takes a more open approach to love and sex, not attempting to limit a person’s other relationships in any way, then perhaps it is more defensible. Perhaps. Still, it might be wise to ask, Is this the kind of spell I’d want someone to cast on me?

Love spells. Whether to do them or not. If you are a practitioner of magic, I dare say you will one day be faced with the choice. If you haven’t yet, it is only a matter of time. And if the answer is yes, then which spells are ethical and which aren’t? Then you, and only you, will have to decide whether ‘All’s fair in love and war’, or whether there are other, higher, metaphysical considerations.

Document Copyright © 1988, 1998 by Mike Nichols

the_goddess_morrigan_by_wintersmagic

Hymn to the Morrigan

by Isaac Bonewits

O Morrigan, we call your name Across the dusty years.
You speak to us, of blood and lust. You show us all our fears.
You are a goddess, old and wise. Of holy power you have no dearth.

 

Beneath your wings : Black, Red and White, We learn of death and birth.

You walk about, this ancient land, Your hungers raw and clear.
You make the crops, grow rich and strong, As well your geese and deer.
A flirting maid, a lusty hag, A mother of great girth :

 

Without the touch of your black wings, We cannot heal the earth.

You float upon, a blood red wave, Of swords and spears and knives.
Your voice inspires, fear and dread, That you’ll cut short our lives.
You try the warriors’, courage sore, Our inner souls unearth.

 

Without the touch of your red wings, We cannot know our worth.

You fly above the silver clouds, To Manannan’s shining Gate.
You lead the dead along that path, To meet our final fate.
The joke’s on us, we find within, A land of laughter and of mirth.

 

Without the touch of your white wings, We cannot have rebirth.

 

For The New Craft Members – Finding A Teacher, Mentor or Guide

Finding a Teacher, Mentor or Guide


When your comfort level with the concepts of the Pagan path have grown to the point where you are certain that this is the lifestyle you wish to follow, you will undoubtedly wish to share that fellowship and comradely with others of like mind and spirit.  To avoid being drawn into a group where the intent is less than honorable, there are a couple of things that may assist you in avoiding contact with the nuts out there.

The first and most important thing is to listen to your Spirit Twin, Guide, Little Voice, Gut Feeling or whatever you choose to call it.  Most of us have found that this inner voice is rarely wrong and you “WILL” know when something simply does not feel right.  If you get that uneasy feeling about someone or a group, back or run away as quickly as possible.

When you initially make contact with someone, especially here on the internet, you have a great advantage in that you can limit your contact to relatively anonymous contact through e-mail.  While this is not always fool proof, and there are some great deceivers out there.  This does offer you some protection.  Exchange mail withholding all personal information until you are absolutely certain there are no safety risks.  If someone keeps pressuring you for personal information, break off all contact with them immediately.  If they persist in bothering you after you politely tell them you no longer wish contact with them, contact your ISP and lodge a formal complaint giving this persons e-mail address and their host name.  There are federal laws regarding electronic stalking and harassment, something of this nature would qualify for assistance from various federal agencies in getting that person to leave you alone.

Finally, Issac Bonewits developed a small questionnaire in 1979 (Advanced Bonewits Cult Danger Evaluation Frame) that you can use which will help your inner voice when determining if an individual or group poses above average risk.

The Advanced Bonewits Cult Danger Evaluation Frame

(version 2.0)

 

Factors:   Low  1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  High


1. INTERNAL CONTROL: Amount of internal political power exercised by leader(s) over members._____


2. WISDOM CLAIMED; by leader(s) amount of infallibility declared or implied about decisions or doctrinal/scriptural interpretations._____


3. WISDOM CREDITED to leader(s) by members; amount of trust in decisions or doctrinal/scriptural interpretations made by leader(s)._____


4. DOGMA: Rigidity of reality concepts taught; amount of doctrinal inflexibility or “fundamentalism.”_____


5. RECRUITING: Emphasis put on attracting new members; amount of proselytizing._____


6. FRONT GROUPS: Number of subsidiary groups using different names from that of main group._____


7. WEALTH: Amount of money and/or property desired or obtained by group; emphasis on members’ donations; economic lifestyle of leader(s) compared to ordinary members._____


8. POLITICAL POWER: Amount of external political influence desired or obtained; emphasis on directing members’ secular votes._____


9. SEXUAL MANIPULATION: of members by leader(s); amount of control exercised over sexuality of members; advancement dependent upon sexual favors or specific lifestyle._____


10. CENSORSHIP: Amount of control over members’ access to outside opinions on group, its doctrines or leader(s)._____


11. DROPOUT CONTROL: Intensity of efforts directed at preventing or returning dropouts._____


12. VIOLENCE: Amount of approval when used by or for the group, its doctrines or leader(s)._____


13. PARANOIA: Amount of fear concerning real or imagined enemies; perceived power of opponents; prevalence of conspiracy theories._____


14. GRIMNESS: Amount of disapproval concerning jokes about the group, its doctrines or its leader(s)._____


15. SURRENDER OF WILL: Amount of emphasis on members not having to be responsible for personal decisions; degree of individual  dis empowerment created by the group, its doctrines or its leader(s)._____


16. HYPOCRISY: Amount of approval for other actions (not included above) which the group officially considers immoral or unethical, when done by or for the group, its doctrines or leader(s); willingness to violate group’s declared principles for political, psychological, economic, or other gain._____

Low   1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  High


Copyright© 1979-1998 c.e.,  Isaac Bonewits.  This text file may be freely distributed on the net provided no editing is done, the version number (if any) is retained and this notice is included.

The Celtic Connection

http://wicca.com/celtic/cc002.htm

A Modern Perspective On Traditional Witchcraft

A Modern Perspective On Traditional Witchcraft

Author: Baudrons

One thing I’ve noticed in the pagan community over the past few years is the increase of people identifying themselves as “traditional witches”. Most of the time, they fail to claim membership in any specific tradition but are quick to point out that what they practice is good, old-fashioned “traditional witchcraft” and not some watered down pap like Wicca. As someone possessing a lifelong interest in witchcraft, these assertions piqued my curiosity. Just what could this dark stream of magic swirling through the shadows be?

After witnessing the deconstruction of Wicca by scholars, accredited and pseudo, I found the prospect of some genuinely old traditions of witchcraft free from the idiosyncrasies of retired British civil servants intriguing.

Although the clichéd granny stories that have circulated for years promise a glimpse into hereditary forms of witchcraft, they rarely, if ever, deliver. Most of the time, the witchcraft purportedly passed down from one’s elder family members turns out to be some eclectic form of Wicca. A romantic childhood memory aside, just because one’s grandmother was superstitious, had a penchant for burning candles, and was handy with the folk remedies hardly qualifies her as a witch. Considering that the grandmother in question is invariably unavailable and no one else in the family is around to substantiate these tales, most accounts of hereditary witchcraft tend to fall apart like cheap furniture. Alex Sanders, holder of arguably the best grandmother story of all time, later recanted as have others so it seems reasonable to indulge in a bit of healthy skepticism when confronted with an account of family witchcraft.

As so many non-Wiccan witches describe themselves as practicing traditional witchcraft, defining the term seemed a logical place to begin my investigation. Witchcraft is a notoriously slippery word. Categorizing witches is like filling a box with those little Styrofoam packing peanuts. You can get most of them in but there’s always a couple that wind up on the carpet.

Isaac Bonewits did a fair job sorting out various types of witches and witchcraft years ago but I found his categorizations a bit too broad to be of much use. The historical accounts of witchcraft I read usually portrayed witches as disaffected loners working malfeasant magic against a society that feared and rejected them. In stark contrast to the glamorous and powerful sorceress of mythology, the historical witch- overwhelmingly female- was an unfortunate wretch depending on charity and likely to seek vengeance when refused.

Others, the so-called “white witches”, acted as healers and midwives, using their skills to the benefit of others. Armed with a comprehensive knowledge of herbalism, divination, and healing methods as well as a keen insight into human behavior, their abilities were prized as truly magical. These cunning folk, however, were careful to refer to themselves by culturally specific terms like pellar, power doctor, root worker, or cuandero in order to avoid being confused with the witch, their diabolical counterpart. Often times, these practitioners were employed to reverse the effects of witchcraft leveled by their more evilly disposed brethren. In some cases, if paid enough, the more mercenary cunning folk would level curses themselves.

The people who caught my attention claiming traditional status were ostensibly of European descent so I narrowed the scope of my search and focused on the British Isles with its rich history of witchcraft. In my research, I discovered some uncanny similarities between the witchcraft of Europe and that described by the Scotch-Irish settlers in the Appalachian region so it made sense to turn my attention across the Atlantic. Having picked up the trail in Albion, I began to explore the long history of sorcery there. Another task was to explore the term “traditional” and how it relates to witchcraft.

Were I to ask random passerby what they traditionally associate with witches, I’m reasonably certain the response would include such things as pointy hats and black cats, bubbling cauldrons, and broomsticks, the classic Halloween stereotype modern witches simultaneously rail against and embrace. While this image of the witch owes its popularity more to The Wizard of Oz than historical precedent, it has its origins somewhere. The witchcraft popularized by Gardner is vastly different in its trappings and suggests a different source. To follow the spoor of traditional witchcraft, it was necessary to look past these 20th century influences.

When I first became interested in witchcraft, the party line was that it represented a link back to the halcyon days of pre-Christian Europe where matriarchal tribes sang paeans to their gods under ancient oaks. That pleasant myth has long been discredited but modern pagans cling to vestiges of it by refusing to abandon the idea of pre-Christian fertility and ecstasy cults entirely. The theories of Margaret Murray may have fallen by the wayside but more modern scholars such as Carlo Ginzburg, Ronald Hutton, Claude Lecouteux, Emma Wilby, Eva Pocs, and Owen Davies have since picked up the academic mantle for today’s witches to use as standards of scholarly respectability.

In addition to their work, superstitions, rural customs, folktales, legends, and songs get trotted out as evidence for traditions of witchcraft predating Gerald Gardner’s controversial claims. In an ironic twist, the hodge-podge of evidence used by Gardner’s detractors actually bolsters his position. Various elements present in Wicca can be demonstrated as having their origins in places other than the New Forest but there is also much to suggest the wily old goat was privy to things other than ceremonial magic and Margaret Murray. That witchcraft existed prior to Gardner there can be no doubt. But was it the same as what modern “traditional witches” make it out to be?

Probably not.

I’m no history major but I do know that the British Isles have been subject to the influences of outside influences since Roman times. The Romans themselves may have brought their gods with them when they invaded Britain but classical deities play a very minor role in traditional witchcraft. Indigenous Celtic deities have their place in traditional witchcraft but the pantheon championed by a good number of self-described traditional witches, the one exerting, the greatest influence arrived later with Saxons. These Nordic god forms took root in British soil and were imbued with Saxon influences, names, and influences. Gods such as Odhinn the All-Father and Dame Holda wield a profound influence on what some consider traditional witchcraft. Legends like that of the Wild Hunt, shamanic practices similar to those found in other Germanic lands, magical use of runes, and a shared cosmology are evidence that much of what is called traditional witchcraft has origins in the pagan cultures of northern Europe.

Yet, in keeping with witchcraft’s evasive nature, another crowd of traditional witches eschews the Teutonic for the Biblical. These practitioners hew more to an altogether different worldview and populate their craft with fallen angels as well as pagan nature deities. These fallen ones, Lucifer and the Watchers being chief among them, are regarded as Promethean figures and the original teachers of mankind. Rather than a source of suffering, they are thought to bring illumination, spilling their light into the dark recesses of ignorance. It is from these divine teachers that mankind first received knowledge of agriculture, metal craft, medicine, art and science. Quite often, Cain, the first murderer, is described as the primal source of “witch-blood”, the spiritual thread linking practitioners together through the ages.

Dragging the waters for more evidence of traditional witchcraft kicked up even more mud. As I peered back into pre-Gardnerian, post-Saxon England, I chanced upon an even more curious influence: Christianity.

England, Ireland, and the other regions of the British Isles have been Christianized for centuries. The Christianity in some regions serves as a thin veneer for indigenous forms of Paganism but, over centuries, the two have become so intertwined that there is no easy separation. Wicca is clearly Pagan in origin but Judeo-Christian symbolism has crept in around the edges. The same can be said for traditional witchcraft. Just about every charm spell I read pre-Gardnerian 19th century tracts call upon the power of one saint or another as well as that of Jesus Christ himself. The more-Pagan-than-thou among us, seeking to divorce themselves from Judeo-Christian influences in their magical practice, face an uphill battle because the whole of western occultism is shot through with it.

Many of those claiming to practice traditional witchcraft are influenced, directly or indirectly, by the work of such notables as Robert Cochrane, Nigel Jackson, and Andrew Chumbley. Cochrane and Chumbley, both deceased, claimed hereditary status, that their witchcraft had been passed down through previous generations. However, both of these gentlemen appeared in Gardner’s wake and their work contains elements found in Gardnerian Wicca leading to a chicken and egg dilemma.

In the case of Robert Cochrane, it has been demonstrated that much of what he had to say about himself was less than truthful and that he was himself either a Gardnerian initiate or, at the very least, had a mole in a Gardnerian coven. Chumbley, on the other hand, was in possession of genuinely old material and his works show clear influences of pre-Gardnerian cunning craft as well as post-Gardnerian constructs such as chaos magic. Chumbley’s pre-Gardnerian influences fall more along the lines of Biblically influenced rather than Pagan witchcraft and suggests ties to the cunning folk of the 18th and 19th centuries. Both men can be considered brilliant in their own right but, as with Gardner, other influences can be discerned in their work.

The explosion of Wicca’s popularity during the 1990s unfortunately led to a spate of substandard works being published in order to capitalize on the fad. As with all such cultural phenomena, there was the inevitable backlash. Disenchanted by the glittery marketing of purportedly Wiccan materials and linked together by the Internet, another witchcraft community formed. Taking its cue from historical imagery and sources, it formed its own conventions and aesthetics to link disparate sources together in a tenuous but somewhat cohesive form.

Initially, the most solidarity I’ve observed among self-described traditional witches came from a dismissive attitude towards Wicca and eclecticism. Yet as one digs deeper into both traditional Wicca and witchcraft, those hard and fast lines start to blur it becomes apparent and I began to see that, minus Gardner’s idiosyncrasies, Wicca is simply a regional form of witchcraft, similar to but distinct from that found in other areas of the British Isles.

What Gardner did was give the surviving fragments of witchcraft found in the New Forest a more defined structure by borrowing liberally from other sources. Had he settled in another area of England and made contact with witches there, contemporary Wicca might have taken a radically different form or may never have come into being at all. Indeed, it is a salient fact that Garner spoke only of witchcraft and witches he called the ‘Wica’. What has been spread across popular culture in recent years is simply not the same thing.

Some have taken exception to my conclusions but so far I’ve seen precious little evidence to convince me that I’m on the wrong track. The history of witchcraft is just that, history. It informs the practice of all modern witches, no matter what their identification. To claim one form of witchcraft as purer in substance as many are wont to do is a waste of time and effort and ultimately denotes insecurity rather than confidence. With witchcraft, tradition is a much poorer measure of validity than effectiveness.


Footnotes:
Nigel Jackson
Andrew Chumbley
Robert Cochrane
Gerald Gardner
Mike Howard
All the intelligent people I’ve had the pleasure of arguing this subject with

Elucidating the Divine: A Druid Perspective

Elucidating the Divine: A Druid Perspective

Author: Vetch

Introduction

There are so many deep, theological questions that never seem to be tackled – things that make us question our beliefs, and wonder why we took on that particular aspect of a certain faith’s philosophy – after all, I’ve always been a person who feels I shouldn’t just go with what “feels right”, but I should be secure in my convictions to defend them from attack. In a roundabout way, this is my confession to behaving as something of a Pagan apologist in my studies of Christian witnessing material and conversations regarding my community. What I say I do with regards to my beliefs correlates nicely with apologetics:

Apologetics is the field of study concerned with the systematic defense of a position. Someone who engages in apologetics is called an apologist or an “apologete”. The term comes from the Greek word apologia (áðïëïãßá), meaning defense of a position against an attack.

Anyway, this essay is in two parts. The first is a discussion of a common concept of divinity found in the Pagan community in comparison with the others – polytheism, the belief in multiple deities, and the variations in which it occurs.

The second part of this essay is a more general theorizing on what constitutes a God or Goddess (note, in my generic language, “God” means a male or female deity unless otherwise indicated – taken as an asexual term for both). This is building on a conversation I’ve been having with a Heathen online, following my inflammatory reading of some philosophy of religion and recognizing something I’d never even considered before regarding the Gods.

It should be also noted here as a general disclaimer that I am not as of yet old enough to study with a Druid order and won’t be until June, so my views are my own personal perceptions as a Druid, and I don’t claim to speak for the BDO, OBOD, AODA, ADF, or any of the others, though my views have been shaped in part by the works of older Druids representing the four orders I have mentioned (Emma Restall Orr, OBOD’s website and introductory material, John Michael Greer, and Isaac Bonewits and Rev. Robert Lee (Skip) Ellison.)

Polytheism

It’s always best to choose a dictionary definition to start off a warbling passage of philosophical and theological ideas, so here we are, lifted shamelessly from Wikipedia:

Polytheism is belief in or worship of multiple gods or deities. The word comes from the Greek words poly+theoi, literally “many gods.” In polytheistic belief, gods are perceived as complex personages of greater or lesser status, with individual skills, needs, desires and histories.

These gods are not always portrayed in mythology as being omnipotent or omniscient; rather, they are often portrayed as similar to humans (anthropomorphic) in their personality traits, but with additional individual powers, abilities, knowledge or perceptions

Generally speaking, then, polytheism is what the Reconstructionists and the Heathen community have – they worship multiple distinct Gods and Goddesses, typically of one culture or civilization’s pantheon, viewing the Gods as possessing a hierarchy of importance like humans have the equivalent of classes (there are chiefs of Gods, like Odin and Zeus) and each God has their own personality, likes, dislikes, powers, jurisdictions, sometimes particular area of veneration or pool of worshippers, and as many people with direct experience of the Gods will attest, they tend to have their own preferred votive offerings in ritual.

Philosophy of religion generally assumes that when we say “God”, we are referring to an entity like the Christian God – perfect (or incapable of error), with knowledge of everything past, present and future, powers without limit, and completely benevolent. However, anyone who reads mythology or knows their cultural history knows that the ancients talked of “Wars in Heaven” where the Gods didn’t get on with each other.

The Olympians often squabbled amongst one another, and the Eddas are populated with stories where Loki causes trouble and the Aesir and the Vanir fought for a time before making peace. It was once said that thunder was the Gods going to war.

So we know that, if we are a reconstruction of the “Old Religion” as Neo-Pagans and Heathens, we can’t view the Gods as perfect. They have clearly demonstrated otherwise – that they are capable of error. Likewise, we can assume that as Gods, more powerful than we humans, their mistakes are more colossal and with more consequences than our own.

Our ancestors also made images of their Gods, not as idols to worship (stone gods, the Frosts have called them) but as representations or focuses for their prayers, in the same way a Christian might light votive candles and imagine the rising smoke to be carrying their prayers to God, or the saints if they are Catholic to intercede on their behalf.

The Celts took a long time to produce statues of their Gods – perhaps they, as Muslims do, had a cultural prohibition against making images of the Gods (as Muslims do the Prophet). So we know from archaeological discoveries how people perceived the Gods to look – how they in a sense anthropomorphized the Gods or made them human enough to be understood – and what duties they ascribed to the Gods.

In mythology, gods can have complex social arrangements. For example, they have friends and foes, spouses (Zeus and Hera) and (illegitimate) lovers (Zeus and his consorts and children), they experience human emotions such as jealousy, whimsy or uncontrolled rage (The fight between Tiamat and Marduk) and they may practice infidelity or be punished. They can be born or they can die (especially in Norse mythology), only to be reborn.

Jesus may be the most famous “Son of God”, but he is not the only son of a God, even one in human form – we know Hercules was half-divine and as mortal as the people he protected. We know the Gods behaved a lot like us – they were guilty of all kinds of indiscretions, most commonly having affairs (my patron Manannan mac Lir is guilty of running off from his wife Fand, who then had an affair with the hero Cuchulainn).

Gods are also very human in their behavior – like Dian Cecht, they are capable of doing bad things in their jealousy, like killing their sons and destroying other people’s work so it won’t surpass their own (Dian Cecht scattered Airmid’s herbs out of jealousy). Some even eat their own children to prevent themselves from being overthrown. They live and die as we do. This I’ll come back to later.

So it’s pretty clear how the ancient people thought of the Gods. But we in the Pagan community have made delineation between two types of polytheism – “soft” and “hard”. Soft polytheism is where a modern Pagan views the Gods as being aspects, faces, or manifestations of a single God or Goddess (even a duotheistic pair), or of a Supreme Being or Spirit who is greater than any of them.

We find this theory of divinity in Hinduism, which allows for countless Gods, which are all manifestations of a single, impersonal divine Creator – termed Brahman or Atman. However, this isn’t actually polytheism – it is a concept quite closely related called monism. Commonly expressed by Pagans as “All is One” or “All Gods are one God, and all Goddesses are one Goddess”, monism can be defined as the following:

Monism, the metaphysical and theological view that all is of one essence, and this essence is sometimes called the monad.

Therefore soft polytheism isn’t polytheism at all, only monism. This doesn’t invalidate it, but we’d do better to call it by its real name, rather than pretend associations with what we call “hard” polytheism – the ancient view that the Gods were personal, anthropomorphized beings.

Having spoken to a few Witches and Pagans of many more years than myself, who are monists, and having read in Margot Adler’s Drawing Down the Moon that many of the influential people of the early Pagan movement subscribed to this belief, it’s obvious it is just as valid a theory – and just as old, because Hinduism and systems like it go a long way back. I just think we need to recognize certain facts.

Having finished with my analysis of polytheism, I want to move on to the second part of my essay and the more pertinent part – what constitutes what we conceptualize as a God? This section will discuss modern Pagan conceptions of divinity, the old perception of what constitutes a God, and the difficulties of defining such a thing.

What constitutes a God?

We don’t conceive of the Gods as the philosophers do, as omniscient and omnipotent. I think we can also throw out that the Gods are necessarily by nature benevolent, because we know from the Eddas, the Mabinogion, the Tain and other repositories of ancient lore and mythology that the Gods are a quarrelsome lot when you boil down to it. In a sense, then, we could dismiss that there is a problem of evil, which requires us to think up a theodicy. Otherwise, this would be the inconsistent triad proposed by Epicurus – firstly, evil and suffering exist in the world; secondly, God is all-powerful; thirdly, God is all-loving.

Such a God, Epicurus argues, cannot exist, because a God that is totally benevolent would want to extinguish suffering, and a God that is totally powerful would be capable of extinguishing evil, which causes suffering. Yet he/she does not. In summary, Epicurus’ teachings were:

The opinion of the crowd is, Epicurus claims, that the gods “send great evils to the wicked and great blessings to the righteous who model themselves after the gods.”, when in reality the gods do not concern themselves at all with human beings.

He also stated that there isn’t really such a thing as good or evil, only that as humans place such value in transitory things, we define what is pleasurable or enjoyable as good, and what is painful as bad. If we lose a child, we are in emotional pain, so the death of a child is bad. If we enjoy lazing around on a summery day, then doing so is good. (He did, however, warn against overindulgence, as people are of course aware that too much drinking, however nice at the time, causes hangovers later, which cause pain to your head.)

If we assume that one does not have to be all-loving and all-powerful to be a God, then we don’t need to consider the Gods should be doing anything to erase evil. In fact, it’s more likely that we create what is evil ourselves, through causing pain to others, unconscious or not.

You’ll notice that war gods tend to be in charge of the pantheon, as chief if you like – Teutates, the “God of the Tribes”, is one, and Odin as Lord of the Slain is another, gathering half the best warriors to Valhalla. There are some exceptions, and notable examples are that the jurisdiction of war is not necessarily attributed only to male deities – Sekhmet, Ishtar, Athena, and the Morrigan (in triune form as Macha, Nemain and Badb as well as by herself) are all Goddesses of war and battle.

So already we’ve thought that to be a God, you don’t need to be all-loving, or have a particular desire to end the bad things in the world, because more often than not the Gods do them themselves. Do you need to be immortal in order to be a God? Well, actually, no – take a look at Norse mythology. The Gods are quite capable of living for a long time, but they are dependent on the golden apples of Idunna – shown when Loki happened to lose them and rapidly needed to get them back to stop the Gods from dying. Further, at Ragnarok, the Gods will die, though Heathens generally think they will be reborn or renewed after Ragnarok, along with the rest of the world.

A God doesn’t need to be immortal, or benevolent. I think we could also dismiss that a God needs to be all-powerful. If every copy of the Bible and the Christian and Jewish scriptures disappeared (I am not counting Islam here, because though I don’t believe this theory many Christians reckon the Allah worshipped by Muslims is an old moon god as opposed to “The God” they worship, which is the same as the Jewish God Yahweh as Christianity is an offshoot of Judaism), then the God of the Bible would no longer have any theoretical power. Nobody would believe in him, so if he caused an earthquake, people wouldn’t attribute it to him but “just one of those things”.

I think Gods have a certain amount of power by themselves. That’s one distinguishing feature of a God – that they possess alone earth-changing powers, wielding the natural energy we call magic in a far more skilled way than we do, and to far greater accuracy, and with less effort. But I’d also argue that a second distinguishing feature of a God is, that like the sidhe in Laurell K Hamilton’s Meredith Gentry series, they get more powerful if they are worshipped. The prayers of the faithful give them strength; the focus of people’s belief in them makes them more solid and real, and more capable of doing things on this physical plane.

A third feature of a God is that their influence spreads with their followers. Most Gods have a homeland or place of origin where their worship started, where they first started interacting with the humans – for the Aesir it’s Scandinavia, for the Celtic Gods it’s central Germany and Gaul and Britain (the druids were supposedly trained in Britain, the school posited to be at Anglesey, destroyed by Suetonius).

A Heathen in America calls on Thor and the sky rumbles with thunder – the fact that people who worship him live in the US means that he can exact changes upon natural phenomena there as if it were in his own country. Like the deities of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, we take our deities with us when we journey away from their original place of worship.

I would argue a fourth feature of what makes a God is that they exist generally in a spirit form, but wear a human form (incarnate) here for an unlimited period of time. After all, if a God is not all-powerful, benevolent, all-seeing (if they fight so much, they can’t be able to see the consequences of their actions – but they must have some foresight because the Norse Gods know about Ragnarok) and immortal, you could define an especially powerful human being that way. However, a powerful human, whilst able to journey between here and the Otherworld in spirit form (you can’t take your body there), they are only in a flesh-shape for a limited period of time. They grow old, weak, and they die. But a God’s human body need not do that – I’m sure Odin can wander around as an old grey man for centuries if he wished.

Characteristics of a God:

(1) A God is an extremely powerful entity by themselves, capable of changing futures and natural phenomena with minimal effort, equivalent to the muscle power needed to flick a fly off your knee;

(2) A God’s power increases when they are worshipped, or their ability to affect changes here in this Middle World increases when there are people whose adoration they feed off, or worshippers they can work through as appointed avatars;

(3) A God’s influence over the world travels with their followers when they uproot from their original homeland and settle elsewhere;

(4) A God is an entity that exists normally in spirit form, but is capable of wearing human flesh in whatever design they like and for as long as they like, instead of being stuck born one way and dying after eighty years.

These are my four criteria for defining what makes a God, which doesn’t have to be able to know everything, or to be all powerful – simply better at these things than humans. I would argue that the Gods are not perfect, as the Christian God and the philosophical God is purported to be – they aren’t omniscient, omnibenevolent, or omnipotent. Further, how could we conceive of perfection? I think we think of the Gods as being like us, and therefore imperfect (as we know we’re not), because then their motives and reasoning capabilities are like ours.

We can then understand why the Gods might do something, or that they are sometimes guided by whimsy or emotion as we are. But a perfect being, a perfect God (let us lay aside our earlier theodicy which prevents a perfect God from existing), would not be like us. Perfection does not equal perfection, and does not resemble it. The motives of a perfect God would be alien and terrifying, as we wouldn’t understand it. Therefore the concept of deciding whether said God’s motives were good or bad is impossible, as it is arbitrary on the part of the God without independent judgment upon it.

I can say I don’t like it that Taranis soaked me with rain, because it made me wet and miserable, and I know that it probably amused him as it would be if I could soak my priest who had too much mouth; a perfect God drenching me with rain would confuse me (I’m assuming here I asked for the rain to keep off me until I got under shelter), because I wouldn’t understand why he did it. This is probably a poor example, but I think you get the idea.

Just quickly, I want to examine why we should think a bit better about some of our other deity concepts. Not to invalidate them, but I don’t understand why anyone would conceive that a God is merely a human archetype, or a symbol, or even an advanced thoughtform through which we focus our magical energies and intentions. A Catholic evangelist asked this niggling question:

Finally, some suppose that the gods do not have independent, objective reality but are just symbols. The question is: symbols of what? On the one hand, if they are symbols of nature and natural forces, then it is difficult to see why they should be worshiped. Electricity is part of nature, but if one does not worship it when it comes from a light socket, it is difficult to see why one should worship it when one imagines and names a symbolic thunder god to represent it.

The problem with this idea of conceiving deity is that it’s pointless. Why should you say you’re evoking a God in your ritual, if all you are doing is using a name with ideas attached to focus your own powers? As said above, it’s like worshipping a light bulb as a receptacle of electricity (cognate with magic, here) that gives light (results of spells).

If the Gods are symbols of a greater force, that is monism, or monotheism in a thin veneer of polytheism. I think we should think about that.

Vetch

       


Footnotes:
Wikipedia articles

“Anti-Neo-Pagan Apologetics” (Google it to find the Catholic site with the irritating questions that caused this essay)

Aliens The Truth (a great site, and my conversation on “are the Gods perfect or imperfect?” is on there under the “Religion and Faith section”

Also, thanks to Sigurd (Odinist) and givethedogabone (Witch)

 

The Changing Role of Men in Wicca

The Changing Role of Men in Wicca

Author: Morgan Ravenwood
It is unfortunate but too often true that male Wiccans find themselves relegated to a passive, almost non-existent role in Wicca and many other Pagan traditions, thereby depriving their female counterparts of some potentially useful interaction, observations and teachings.

While many Wiccan women would defend this stance by pointing out that the Abrahamic faiths are male-centered and that they came to Paganism to avoid being forced to submit to male authority, they fail to realize that any faith that places emphasis on one gender over another is simply out of balance and deprives its members of both spiritual satisfaction and education.

We Wiccans must remember that it was a man, Gerald Gardiner, who originally gave birth and identity to the faith we practice today. However, he didn’t do so all by himself—he a lot of help and encouragement from women such as Doreen Valiente. Perhaps that is why the Gardnerian tradition has always promoted gender equality. Since then there have been some notable male Pagans such as Stuart Farrar, Oberon Zell, Isaac Bonewits, and more recently, Kerr Cuhulain and Christopher Penczak (who has written a great deal about gay Wiccans, whose numbers continue to grow) whose knowledge and experience have benefited us all.

A quick overview of some of the major Wiccan traditions certainly doesn’t inspire a man to want to join most of them unless he is willing to play a subordinate—and submissive- –role. While ones such as the various Druid groups and the Alexandrian and Gardnerian traditions seem to be more welcoming to the male practitioner, others such as the Dianic and Avalonian traditions are strictly matrifocal with no male participation at all. There are endless lists of Wiccan female-only groups on the web as opposed to barely a handful for men. All of this amounts to the same kind of sexism practiced by the mainstream religions, and is just as counter-productive.

We are all familiar with the concept of the Triple Goddess, which is of course worshiped by male and female Wiccans alike. While most female Wiccans relate the phases of the Goddess to our own lives, how do we apply this to the God, and in so doing, contemplate how this concept can be applied to men?

In my long years of study and correspondence with other practitioners, I have learned quite a bit from some very wise male Pagans. I recently asked some of them their opinions on this, and actually got some pretty similar answers, though one male friend said, “I hadn’t really ever thought about it!”

I can’t help but feeling that that is a very great shame indeed.

Equal gender identification really isn’t that difficult when you think about it. When we see the young Goddess as the Maiden, we could see her male counterpart as the Youth/Warrior/Student. As She reaches Her Mother stage, Her consort matures into the Father/Warrior/Hunter.

Opinions vary on when a woman has aged sufficiently to regard herself (and be regarded by others) as a “Crone, ” but on the other side of the coin, we again have her consort becoming an Elder/Sage/Grandfather. Though male Wiccans revere and venerate the Goddess in these various incarnations, might they not feel a little more comfortable if the God was given equal consideration?

Those female Wiccans who may belong to covens who worship the Goddess to the exclusion of the God might feel a little more in balance also.

When we look at the history of Paganism we find a large number of male deities such as Cernunnos, Dagda, Lugh, Cuchulainn, Pan, Osiris, Zeus, Apollo, and so many more. In ritual, particularly when petitioning for a special purpose, it is wise to aim such petitions towards a deity who may have certain characteristics particular to the object of the petition.

Male Wiccans especially may have certain issues that they feel more comfortable sharing with a male deity as opposed to a female one. That doesn’t mean, however, that they would (or should) eliminate worship of the Goddess in Her many forms—on the contrary, the male Wiccans of my acquaintance are very devoted to Her.

As in everything, balance and moderation are the keys.

We need look no further than our own Wheel of the Year to understand how important the God is to our religion. From Yule, when we celebrate the birth of the God, to Samhain, when He dies and prepares to be born yet again at Yule, our Sabbats are ironically centered on the God, with the Goddess both assisting and participating in a supporting (but no less important) role.

Consequently, it seems illogical and counter-productive to relegate the God along with male practitioners to a minor role in other Wiccan rites. While I am certainly not advocating the dissolution of all female-only covens, I DO encourage them to give some serious consideration to allowing serious male practitioners to participate in their rites. This would present many opportunities for fellowship and the sharing of knowledge, which would surely outweigh any perceived disadvantages.

The Religioustolerance.org website contains Edain McCoy’s description of the worship of Wiccan deities thusly: “We worship a deity that is both male and female, a mother Goddess and father God, who together created all that is, was, or will be. We respect life, cherish the free will of sentient beings, and accept the sacredness of all creation.” And yet, the same article also says, “Wiccans celebrate the sexual polarity of nature.

For example, the fertilizing rain is one manifestation of the male principle; the nurturing earth symbolizes the female. Females are respected as equal (and sometimes at a slightly higher rank) to males. A priestess is often the most senior person among covens — a local group of Wiccans. They aim for a female-male balance in most of their covens (local groups), although men are typically in the minority.”

The last sentence really reinforces the imbalance that exists in Wiccan practice and brings up a salient point: perhaps if more men chose to become involved in Wicca, it would drive up the numbers of Wiccan adherents and consequently make us more of a force to be reckoned with. The days of “broom closet” Wicca are coming to a close and we are already seeing the benefits such as the V.A. approval of the pentacle on the headstones of Wiccan veterans.

However, we must keep in mind that in order for more men to become interested in Wicca, they must be allowed equal consideration and status.

It’s a concept whose time has come.