Lately, for the past couple of months, I have been asked to edify my position and thoughts on various things and in doing so, I’ve gotten a bit frustrated. Because this is a personal blog, and because it’s easier for me to link people to this blog when I am approached with certain topics, I have decided to write up short (well, relatively short) responses to my ten biggest peeves when it comes to discussing Witchcraft or Paganism. Because these are peeves, I am sort of peevish in my replies. I hope that whoever reads this can embrace the well-meaning humor I intended. I’m not really angry, just trying to state things as clearly and briefly as I can. Since I’m a very verbose person by nature… well… I tried.
Okay, I get where this comes from in the mindset of Christian theology. That’s not the issue, really, as that’s never going to change. There apparently is no real middle ground on which both parties, Christians and Pagans/Witches can meet to understand that Satan has nothing to do with anything outside of Christianity and its offshoots. Satan is a baddie in monotheistic belief systems because of the need for monotheists to make their God an all-loving good guy. Pagan gods aren’t all-loving good guys, we understand that our gods can be pissy and we’re okay with that, so we don’t need anyone to play the Big Bad in our traditions.
This kind of ties-in to the last one, but I’ll separate it to take it in more detail. I believe that people can create thoughtforms and that when lots and lots of people believe in the same thing, they can create it. This is a short and simple definition for how group ritual magic works; it’s not complete, but it’s the basic concept behind it. I’ve seen and experienced its effectiveness and my understanding of things embraces this concept, so to carry that thought forward, I believe that since people have been thinking/talking/fearing/focusing on/etc. the concept of a being called Satan, that he exists. You could say people made him what he is. I don’t equate him/it with what he is described as in Christian tradition, but that’s because I’m not Christian and don’t follow that line of thinking or belief. It doesn’t fit with the way I see things. But to say that he ‘doesn’t exist’ seems like a cheap way of avoiding the issue. Sure, I think he exists, and he’s probably got some punch to him as well, given how popular he’s been for several millenia, but I don’t work with him or give him any worship or recognition beyond something of a nod. Just as I acknowledge that there are plenty of other gods out there that I don’t pay homage to, but still accept that they exist in one form or another.
Oh. Em. Gee. Okay, roughly a hundred or so years ago, a man named Howard Phillips Lovecraft, known as H.P. Lovecraft, was writing horror stories. In his work, he created the Necronomicon for his characters to stumble across and use to get into mischief. The publishers then decided to expand upon that and print up a text to appeal to Lovecraft’s fans. Since the Necronomicon was referenced in his stories, they thought it would be good business to print up a copy of it so that readers could read what the characters were reading in the stories. The Mad Arab, Abdul Alhazred, is one of Lovecraft’s characters.
This is the equivalent of J.K. Rowling putting out a printed copy of a spell book referenced in the Harry Potter saga for readers so they could read what Albus Dumbledore may have had on one of his many bookshelves. This does not mean that the book is a real grimoire. Now, since that time, at least one author who also practices magic has been working with the Necronomicon as a basis for ritual magic and has expanded and worked on creating things to turn what is in the Necronomicon into something legit. This isn’t the same thing. Please do not pick up a paperback of the Necronomicon and think you are going to summon the Elder Gods. It ain’t happenin’.
7- Your pet is not a familiar.
There are a couple of reasons I have twitchy, jaw-clenching, fist-shaking reactions to this. The first is that the idea of a familiar is not one of an animal companion, but is a SPIRIT who works with a Witch and may shift into animal form, or if one is so determined, one would seek to evict the soul of their animal and replace it with the magical helper, effectively turning Fluffy or Fido into a spirit servitor. The second is that this was a charge leveled against countless people and animals during the years of the Witch Trials in Europe and was the reason for sending innumerable men, women, and children, dogs, and cats to their deaths based on silly medieval supersition. During this time, it was believed that the devil provided the Witch with a familiar to be the go-between for her nefarious deeds and his wishes.
Witches are typically known for their strong connections to animals and the natural world, this is where the modern version of calling your pet a familiar comes from, but it’s inaccurate. Unless you bring your pet into ritual with you to draw upon the spirit within it for assistance in your working or to seek answers from it as an otherworldly messenger, you have a beloved animal companion, not a familiar, or you might be in need of psychiatric assistance.
(More on this topic here)
6- Empathy is not a special psychic or magical skill. Everyone has it, and if they don’t, they are not a healthy person.
There has been a big push recently to claim empathic talent as a sort of super power. This is ridiculous. You are supposed to be empathetic. Not having empathy for others is the hallmark of a sociopathic person. Now, you may be stronger or weaker when it comes to the in-feeling that people do when they are in one another’s company. Some people become overwhelmed by being around lots of people — that’s called being an introvert. Or, you may feel drained when you are around lots of people — that’s called being anxious or maybe those other people are just downers who suck your enthusiasm from you. Sometimes other people just suck… literally. Or maybe you are especially sensitive and can easily pick up on what others are feeling, perhaps even to the point of feeling it yourself. That’s empathy, but that’s what happens when you read a book or watch a dramatic movie or television show and feel bad or cry when something sad happens to one of the characters. If you are empathic/empathetic, hooray, you are potentially a well-adjusted human who can show compassion for his or her fellow creatures.
“Karma is a bitch”. “Karma is going to get him/her/them, I will just wait and watch.” and other such pithy nonsense. Karma is an Eastern philosophy and doesn’t actually fit into the concepts of Witchcraft as a Western practice. It was introduced into the Western Mystery Traditions, upon which Wicca partly based, through India being the sparkling jewel in the British Empire. When England had its big occult boom in the mid to late 1800s, people went mad for all things exotic from far off lands. The concept of Karma was thus brought to Europe, but it didn’t really fit. See, in the West, then as now (even more so now, really) we are stuck in a rut of instant gratification. We need to see the results of our actions RIGHT NOW! Otherwise, we lose interest. Karma moves much more slowly than western minds can process, stretching across the spans of lifetimes. It does have connection with the idea of ‘what you sow, you will reap’ but that’s kind of basic, really. I mean, if I’m a nasty tart to you, that’s not going to win me any favors when I need something from you, so I will have earned my ‘karmic retribution’. Except… it’s not actually Karma, it’s just human nature. Karma is huge, and very involved and detailed, and basically of no interest to me because I’m not Hindu or Buddhist. If you would like to know more about it, I suggest that you look in those traditions because in general, the Euro-based systems don’t have a clue about what it really is.
This is actually two statements so I’ll give a response for both. 1 – “Harm None” is grossly misinterpreted and I believe it is misunderstood by the bulk of “Wiccans” out there. The Wiccan Rede (which means ‘advice’ or ‘counsel’ and is not a ‘law’) says, “If it harm none, do what ye will.” Lots, if not most/all pop-Wiccans (those who have adopted Wicca as their personal religious path without having put a lot of time and study into it beforehand) have latched on to those two words –Harm None– and turned them into an ironclad code of conduct. I see nothing wrong with people doing so if that’s what they need in order to stick to a positive life path and reach their spiritual bliss. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to live a life without causing harm to other beings, so, I am not against those who follow this interpretation of the Rede. However, my understanding of the Rede is that it says only that if an action harms none, the Witch is free to do it, but it says nothing about what to do or not do if an action DOES cause harm.
Wicca is a religion that is rooted in personal responsibility and accepting the consequences of one’s actions. To me, the stronger, truer meaning of the Rede lays in this understanding. No one tells a Witch what is right or what is wrong, it is for the Witch to weigh and measure all possibilities and all outcomes before taking action. Each situation has to be looked at and thought through accordingly. This requires maturity and responsibility. There is no one to blame if we do something bad, just ourselves. Every action and every non-action is a choice, and the Witch is responsible for those choices made. If a Witch chooses the path of vegetarianism or veganism, that’s their choice, based on their conscience and understanding of what they deem to be right or wrong. But it remains an individual choice, not one dictated to others.
So, to the second point, taking the life of an animal is not inherently bad. This is because a Witch seeks to live in harmony with nature and the natural order. The natural order says that life feeds on life. So, in order to live, we consume living things — be they animal life or plant life. The animal should be treated well, not cruelly, and its life should end as painlessly as possible for our sustenance. This is the ideal. We should honor this life and its sacrifice and many Witches do this in the form of prayer before meals, and offer gratitude to the plants and animals that have provided our meal.
Well, good for you, but I’m one of those Witches who doesn’t think this is a path for everyone. I am happy to help you discover if it’s the path for you, but I do not expect that everyone who approaches me is actually a Witch or will become one. Witches are Witches because they are Witches, not because they want to be Witches. After writing that, I realize how ‘fortune cookie’ it sounds… but it’s the truth. Witchcraft is a deep inner calling. It may be sparked because of books, games, movies, or what have you, but that’s just because it’s a fascinating subject. To actually become a Witch requires devotion, will, understanding, study, patience, practice, and a sense of adventure. I believe that the people who succeed on this path do so because being a Witch is in their nature. If it’s not there, it won’t happen. They may become ‘armchair enthusiasts’ or people who read lots of books, but they will never conjure anything or part the veil between the worlds.
Let me start by explaining that I hate this concept soooo much, because to me, it smacks of fence-straddling indecision and lack of conviction. Secondly, it’s insulting to Christianity and Paganism on multiple levels and I personally can’t see where it can legitimately come from.
Wicca and Christianity are two completely different religions. Aside from the “try to be nice to other people” that is just a cool code of behavior whether you’re religious or not, there’s really nothing that links them. Now, I do believe that people are free to create whatever spiritual system they want if it works for them, and so, they can pull what they see as relevant to themselves from any multitude of belief systems, so long as those things don’t absolutely contradict one another. You can be a Christian who practices magic (though other Christians will have an issue with your practices). You can be a Wiccan who chooses to honor Mary or Sophia as the Goddess (though the Christian God doesn’t play well with others and has given specific commands against putting anyone else up where he is as a God). As far as Pagan practices go, Yahweh-Jehovah, Jesus, and whatever other beings you want to work with as part of a Christian pantheon are cool. In general, Pagans won’t care who you worship. Christians will have something to say about who you put with their god, and rightly so.
The Nicene Creed, which has been the defining statement of Christianity for almost 2000 years says this is a big no-no. So, if you’re going to do that, don’t put the name “Christianity” in your practice. Also, if you’re going to bring in Christian godforms, I’d request that you not put “Wicca” or “Paganism” in the name of your practice because that just leads to a lot of confusion. You can believe what you want and you can practice what you want, but if you’re going to create a new system, then give it a new name, or don’t give it any name and just claim it as your own personal practice. Combining Wicca and Christianity makes about as much sense as claiming to be a Hindu Scientologist, an Atheist Catholic, or a Rastafarian Muslim.
(more on this topic here)
I judge. I judge a lot, and sometimes, I judge harshly. I try to judge fairly and weigh all sides of something whenever I can. But I do judge. I just try not to condemn, and I think that’s what most people are actually saying when they say, “don’t judge me.”
The right to condemn someone for something is ambiguous and depends on many factors, but the right to judge someone for something is perfectly valid and should be expected. The only people afraid of judgment are those who are afraid of accepting personal responsibility. I am willing to listen and will do my best to understand and not condemn, but I will judge.
I don’t necessarily know what’s going on inside each person’s head. So I can’t make an accurate judgment in that case unless I take the time to do my best observation, psychoanalysis, and maybe a bit of divination if things are still clouded before making a judgment call. But, based on their actions, their words, their motivations, and anything else that they DO make known to me, I have the ability and the RESPONSIBILITY to judge other people. I judge them for what becomes my safety or benefit, or the safety and benefit of those I’m responsible for. Do I want to continue speaking with this person? Is this someone worthy of my trust? How much should I be willing to confide in them? Are they someone I would want in my home? Would I take them on as a potential student or coven member? All of these and more are the result of making a judgment and I refuse to give up that right simply because some feel that “no one has the right to judge me.”
Along with this, I will put myself out there for scrutiny. Just as I have the right and ability to judge others, I know that such decisions will be made in judgment about me. That’s fine. I do my best to judge fairly, to take all things into consideration, and to come up with a reasonable, logical, and rational decision. I take into account how well I know the person/people in question and what set of circumstances they (or I) may be going through that could cloud my judgment. Sometimes I manage to reserve judgment until such has passed. I can only hope that others do the same where I am concerned. Unfortunately, I have little control over what they do or think so I have to take what decision they come to as their right. If I disagree with their judgment, only my actions will prove them wrong because words don’t carry much weight if a person has already decided.
So, don’t tell me not to judge you. I will judge. You will judge. We all will judge. That’s just the way of things. I will judge your words and your actions according to my own standards. I will make a decision, or several decisions about you based on what you demonstrate to me. I will be fair and willing to give you the benefit of the doubt in most cases, but it is not my religion’s commandment that I don’t judge others. My gods expect wisdom and discernment and I mean to have it.