and you look at me
we only see the skin.
If we could look inside,
I bet we'd find a searcher there within.
(Jeff Johnson, Fallen Splendour)
A wee child toddling in a wonder world, I prefer to their dogma my excursions into the natural gardens where the voice of the Great Spirit is heard in the twittering of birds, the rippling of mighty waters, and the sweet breathing of flowers. If this is Paganism, then at present, at least, I am a Pagan.
(Zitkala-Sa aka Gertrude Bonnin, The Atlantic Monthly, 1902)
Over the years, there have been the most varied rumours and stories from the Christian quarter as to 'just what that Roland has got himself into'. But from what I can gather, it seems that most of these Christians do not have even an approximately correct idea of just what it is exactly that I need to be 'rescued' from. This article is meant to address those who would actually like to know.
Having been raised in the honourable Mennonite Christian tradition, I have to count myself fortunate to have been raised by these hard working folk - many of whom I have seen take their faith seriously, and 'walk the talk'. I want them to know that I admire and respect them for this. Their faith has carried them through trial and storm, and I believe the Lord has and will honour them for that.
As with any young person, there comes a point where one has to, 'make one's faith one's own'. In my explorations, some thought I was being rebellious, but this was never my intention. I really could see no use in that. I had no need to be a 'rebel without a cause' (since if you define yourself by what you are against, then when that something is removed, you no longer have any point of reference from which to define yourself).
But youth has to fall off their own horses, and the parents anxiously watch as the child flees their guardianship in order to stretch his own wings. This is a normal and healthy part of growing up, and as its the first time through for every parent, and the first time through for being a kid, you just do the best you can, and my parents did very well. I couldn't have asked for better parents. But I was left unsatisfied by the superficial dismissals of the experiences and knowledge of the greater portion of humanity which was not privy to this exclusive enclave of truth.
In the church, we were told that there were other religions (like Buddhism), and that for some reason, they were not possessed of the truth, they were lost, going to hell, and needed saving. This is just what made me curious to seek out the sources that were being criticized -- in order to find out for myself from the horses' mouth instead of based on the judgements and glib slander of the protestant denominations.
In my researches and studying, it became quickly apparent that what I had been told ABOUT these 'other religions', and what they themselves were saying was not coincident. The protestants seemed to have made their objections somewhat superficially and their portrayals were often inaccurate, I asked, 'how can they preach such faulty criticism with such weighty consequence when with only a little research as I have done already shows it differently'. Shoddy scholarship among the evangelicals regarding these other faiths lessened my respect for them (notable exceptions being such excellent Christian apologetics as John Trott of the Jesus People, and C.S. Lewis).
For some, they said to me that I was 'falling away' - but for me it never felt so. I merely strove deeper than the answers presented to me. Rather, in my explorations, I have felt like I was 'coming home'.
I have always maintained a spiritual outlook on life, and have never lost my faith in the divine. I feel the closeness and assurance within my being every moment with gladness. Happiness and sadness is but a viel that passes over the countenance, but the deep joy and knowing is, and always has been, there.
Sample Christian Responses
speaking recently with two friends brought to my attention how completely misunderstood the occult sciences are by the general population. it has therefore become necessary to provide some explanation outlining my beliefs and of occultism. to begin, a recapitulation of our conversation:
q: what is occultism? d: religious things, tarot cards, divination. mind reading and transcendental meditation too. n: it's associated with satanism, witchcraft, there are several branches, and they include divination and witchcraft. q: what do occultists do? n, d: they are the people that do these things. q: what makes these things occult? d: they're dealing with supernatural things. occultism is about people wanting to know about the future. n: the priests of baal – in the bible – it has to do with things like that, but that's probably not quite it, something like it. it has to do with things that are forbidden by god. d: and involves the supernatural. n: more to do with witches, and new age. it recalls to me mediaeval times, and witches in england, and whatever it is that they're doing. d: and eastern philosophy n: worship of satan – it's very difficult to define, you may ask two people that are in it and they will say two different things. d: black magic – any magic. q: but what do you think they actually do? d: they meditate. q: ok, if you were to walk in the door of the house of an occultist, what would you expect them to be doing? d: i'd expect there to be candles, incense, spells. n: tree worship, nature worship. d: i think they're pro-environment, you know, save the whales – pro-nature. they'd have occult things in their room. maybe celtic things, irish. n: yes, things to do with leprechauns and fairies; mystical stuff. q: what do you call mystical? n: to do with mythology. d: rocks, crystals, harmony balls, and they think they have powers. n: based on wishy-washy garbage. d: they do herbalism, and grow herbs n: and they also do healing with sex d: they use music; like in meditation – i don't know, but i'm assuming. dances and rituals. i think they do sacrifices – not killing animals and such, but more like an offering. n: i think of sorcerers. d: yes, sorcery. (Interview: August 19, 1995, St. Catharines, Ontario)
Unfortunately, it seems that the ideas of occultism have been taken over by obscure references in hollywood films, commercialised halloween celebrations, and tarot card toting charlatans. witchcraft, leprechauns, and harmony balls? the occult has a very strange reputation indeed. as one of the foremost proponents of occultism in the west, madamme blavatsky says:
'Most of the believers... have no definite idea of the nature of occultism, and confuse it with the occult sciences in general, the 'black art' included. their representations of the powers it confers upon man, and of the means to be used to acquire them, are as varied as they are fanciful. ...will these candidates to wisdom and power feel very indignant if told the plain truth? it is not only useful, but it has now become necessary to disabuse most of them, and before it is too late. this truth may be said in a few words: there are not in the west half-a-dozen among the fervent hundreds who call themselves 'occultists' who have even an approximately correct idea of the nature of the science they seek to master.'(Blavatsky, Practical Occultism, pp. 29-32, Theosophical Publishing House, London, 1948, republished 1987)
Contradictions at the Edges of the Proscribed World
When I was about ten, we lived in a Italian neighbourhood, and I found an enourmous statue of the virgin Mary. It was bewildering that this image should intrude upon my sheltered Christian world, and I wondered, 'just who is this person called Mary, and why do they have statues of her?' When I asked my parents about this, they simply warned me against it, and assured me of the pagan status of the Catholic faith.
At this time, I had never actually heard of this 'Buddha', but I had already been told it was wrong. 'But how could entire nations have grown up under such delusion as these people claim'? I niavely wondered. I determined that I had to find out what they said from their own point of view, rather than from what other people said about them.
A central tennant for me was: A truth is true, no matter who says it. If the devil himself says that '2+2=4', and the statement is correct, than it is correct in and of itself, and not simply because one person or another utters it. In short, for me - Truth was INTRINSIC. (the use to which the devil may put a truth is of course another matter)
It was self-evident to me that anything that is True should have no qualm abiding by this standard, for if it knows itself to be true, then it will surely be vindicated, and has nothing to fear. The Bible, for example -- If it was 'True', then it too would naturally be vindicated. It would only fear this standard if it were possessed of Doubt, and of such I had not.
I always strove to broaden my horizon of understanding for all points of view that have come to meet me in this world. I encountered entirely alien world outlooks, and wondered how strange we must be for them!
Fur yemand ist ein fremd ein heim.
For everyone I saw, how did they see me? To be told that any point of view that lay outside of Christianity was somehow 'evil','wrong', or 'from the devil', and condemned by a loving God to eternal damnation simply for the unlucky fate of not having been 'reached' by 'us' yet was insufferable for me. It seemed to me far too simplistic, and because this 'other' was never discussed, it was just there I first would go.
I explored the some of the different faiths this world has to offer, as outlined in detail below. Although I don't ascribe any longer to any of the particular things i may describe, I always thought it was worth being knowledgeable on a subject, and investigating it from their point of view before stating anything of my personal opinions about it. In the document below, I simply provide reference to some of the ideas in which I immersed myself during my spiritual explorations in the younger part of my 20's. The ultimate direction and aim of my spiritual strivings however lay beyond these regions, and ultimately lead me back to Christianity through the Anthroposophic work of Rudolf Steiner. It was he that provided a way to reconcile the Natural Scientific views of the 20th Century Canadian culture in which I lived, and the Faith-based Theocentric universe of the family and church. He fully took up the scientific principles in a rigourous fashion, and yet found a way to admit of universe that included both the Human - to whom science is servant, and the Divine - to which we belong.
One thing that often sadens me about the Christians is that they still come to me with comments like, 'if only your -really- studied the Bible, then you wouldn't say these things'. But my reply to them is that I have investigated the Bible far far more than they have investigated the alternatives. After having: read the bible (twice through), having been sent to church several times a week for decades, and having read small libraries of Christian literature and apologetics -- after this, I can say that I have given this faith a fair chance, and could elucidate the basic tennants better than many of these so-called 'Christians'. Then the reply comes, 'but that doesn't matter so much as your relationship with Christ' -- if this be the case, then let me assure them that I have just such a personal relationship, and am fully sure of my 'salvation' as can be, and will they please and finally let me alone!?! ach, but what can they know of this frusteration!?!? they're praying for me, but take offense when i tell them that i'm praying for them too'... ach! foot of Vishnu -- stamp out ignorance!
If you hate a person, you hate something in him that is
One must always remember, if one is simply AGAINST something, it is just then that we are most bound to it - for then we define ourselves in reference to it. So, after a time of falling away from this tradition (though never from mine own spiritual outlook on life), I gained a new respect for it after going through the other faiths. Its almost as if one has to leave something in order to come to appreciate it independently, and disentangled from it. Likewise, our age tends to despises the Victorians, because we're still too close to them to have much objectivity about it, and we may be more like that empire than we'd like to suppose.
Every age, every culture, every custom and tradition has its own character, its own weakness and its own strength, its beauties and ugliness; accepts certain sufferings as matter of course, puts up patiently with certain evils.
Human life is reduced to real suffering, to hell, only when two ages, two cultures and religions overlap... Now there are times when a whole generation is caught in this way between two ages, two modes of life, with the consequence that it loses all power to understand itself and has no standard, no security, no simple acquiescence. (Herman Hesse, Steppenwolf)
Later, I found that one didn't necessarily need to turn to Paganism for this sort of wisdom -- for Christianity had its own rich esoteric traditions; but one didn't find it, because it was forbidden. The baby had been thrown out with the bathwater, so to speak, and the main ('exoteric') stream of 'pop' christianity left me with a feeling that it was shallow and unsatisfying. So I had to seek elsewhere -- and this document attests to some of the territory I went through at that time.
However, things come back full circle -- for later I did 'discover my own' way back to Christianity through the Anthroposophical and Esoteric work of Rudolf Steiner (whose primary difference from the whole Theosophical school was that he held a central and unique position for the actual personal incarnation of Jesus Christ in the worldview he advocated).
Coming from a background where only one viewpoint dominated and was allowed, much of what i lacked i found in abundance here. There were many valuable things i learned in the small but lively neo-pagan movement. Its respect for the life of the earth was unsurpassed. Its love for things that grow, and understanding of ritual, and the bounty of its ideas and views i found extremely rewarding and stimulating. To my surprise, much of the neo-pagan movement was really not so 'religious', as much as a need for fellowship with like-minded individuals that also felt disenfranchised with the conventional pre-packaged ideas and dogmas. The celtic pagan forms felt more naturally suited to my inclinations, and it was like a 'coming home'. Thus, i made many good and loyal friends there, although i have moved-on from this path, and even come again to terms with christianity (through the work of Anthroposophy), and i value the lessons i have learned learned within it.
Technology and the Natural Sciences
At the same time, i found myself in a world dominated with the ideas of natural science. These utterly clashed within my mental life. The church told me i had been created in some miraculous nebulous image of some strange entity described as 'omnipotent God', and the next day the teacher in the school would tell me, 'you have come from a monkey, here is an experimernt.'
The scientific method seemed on much firmer ground than the feeble demands to 'have faith'. I didn't want to believe, I wanted to Know How could there be any reconciliation between the incredible stories of divine origins, miracles of water and wine, virgin births, and raising people from the dead, and reductionism and atomism as we were taught in school, and which we required for daily functioning in practical activities such as mechanics and the creation of wonderful machines? Between these two currents my soul toiled, and I exhausted every avenue in my search, leaving no stone unturned. Too often had I been told one thing, only to find just the opposite was true. For each thing, I would seek to understand it in its own terms, and not by what other people said about it.
Who Are the Witches?
to the niave ideas, inflated by Hollywood fantasy, and Christian hysteria, I think it is a valid question to ask: what do witches believe?
there is an old pagan joke that runs - ask three pagans, get four answers. so one must not take this to be representative of all witches and pagans. however, within this highly individualised set of groups, it does seem to touch upon at least a few threads of agreement...
so, according to one of the more original factions of this most plural of pagan communities - below are the 'tenets of belief'.
other folks with a fairly establihed reputation in the neo-pagan community are: isaak bonewits (druid), starhalk (dianic witchcraft), and gerald gardiner ('old' school).
my only personal note in this, is that it is important to know, that within the wiccan rede - 'an it harm none, do what THOU wilt' it is of particular importance to come to a full understanding of just who 'THOU' is... only then does one realise that this is quite the opposite of saying 'do what you WANT'.
The Tenet's of Witchcraft
The main tenet of Witchcraft, the Wiccan Rede, is:
"An'it harm none, do what thou wilt."
In April, 1974, the Council of American Witches adopted a set of Principles of Wiccan Belief. I, personally, subscribe to those principles and list them here.
1. We practice rites to attune ourselves with the the natural rhythm of life forces marked by the phases of the Moon and the seasonal Quarters and Cross Quarters.
2. We recognize that our intelligence gives us a unique possibility toward our environment. We seek to live in harmony with Nature, in ecological balance offering fulfillment to life and consciouswithin an evolutionary concept.
3. We acknowledge a depth of power far greater than that apparent to the average person. Because it is greater than ordinary it is sometimes 'supernatural', but we see it as lying within that which is naturally potential to all.
4. We concieve of the Creative Power in the universe as manifesting through polarity-as masculine and feminine-and that this same Creative Power lies in all people, and functions through the interaction of the masculine and feminine. We value neither above the other, knowing each to be supportive to the other. We value sex as pleasure, as the symbol and embodiment of life, and as one of the sources of energies used in magickal practice and religious worship.
5. We recognize both outer worlds and inner, or psychological, worlds sometimes known as the Spiritual World, the Collective Unconscious, Inner Planes, etc. --and we see in the interaction of these two dimensions the basis for paranormal phenomena and magickal exercises. We neglect neither dimension for the other, seeing both as necessary for our fulfillment.
6. We do not recognize any authoritarian hierarchy, but do honour those who teach, respect those who share their greater knowledge and wisdom, and acknowledge those who have courageously given of themselves in leadership.
7. We see religion, magick and wisdom in living as being united in the way one views the world and lives within it-a world view and philosophy of life which we identify as Witchcraft-the Wiccan Way.
8. Calling oneself "Witch" does not make a Witch- but neither does heredity itself, nor the collecting of titles, degrees and initiations. A Witch seeks to control the forces within her/himself that make life possible in order to live wisely and well without harm to others and in harmony with Nature.
9. We believe in the affirmation and fulfillment of life in a continuation of evolution and development of consciousness giving meaning to the Universe we know and our personal role within it.
10. Our only animosity towards Christianity, or towards any other religion or philosophy of life, is to the extent that its institutions have claimed to be 'the only way' and have sought to deny freedom to others and to suppress other ways of religious practice and belief.
11. As American Witches, we are not threatened by debates on the history of the craft, the origins of various terms, the legitimacy of various aspects of different traditions. We are concerned with our present and our future.
12. We do not accept the concept of absolute evil, nor do we worship any entity known as 'Satan' or 'the Devil', as defined by the Christian tradition. We do not seek power through the suffering of others, nor accept that personal benefit can be derived only by denial to another.
13. We believe that we should seek within Nature that which is contributory to our health and well-being.
(Raymond Buckland, *Buckland's Complete Book of Witchcraft*, Llewellyn Books, St. Paul MN, 1992, pp. 9-10)
The common knowledge on Witchcraft is greatly in err. It's funny to see how some Christians think they know more about our religion, the nature of our Gods, and who we worship than we do. Therefore, to give the uneducated reader a context, I will describe what Wicca is, in the words of some real Witches:
"Witchcraft, also referred to as the Old Religion, The Craft, or Wicca, is an ancient religion based on love of life and nature. In prehistoric times, people respected the great forces of Nature and celebrated the cycles of the seasons and the moon. They saw divinity in the sun and moon, in the Earth Herself, and in all life. The creative energies of the universe were personified: feminine and masculine principles became Goddesses and Gods. These were not semi-abstract, superhuman figures set apart from Nature: they were embodied in earth and sky, women and men, and even plants and animals.
"This viewpoint is still central to present-day Wicca. To most Wiccans, everything in Nature – and all Goddesses and Gods – are true aspects of Deity. The aspects most often celebrated in the Craft, however, are the Triple Goddess of the Moon (Who is Maiden, Mother, and Crone) and her male counter-part, the Horned God of the wilds. These have many names in various cultures.
"Wicca had its organized beginnings in Paleolithic times, co-existed with other Pagan ('country') religions in Europe, and had a profound influence on early Christianity. But in the medieval period, tremendous persecution was directed against the Nature religions by the Roman Church. Over a span of 300 years, millions of men and women and many children were hanged, drowned or burned as accused "Witches". The Church indicted them for black magic and Satan worship, though in fact these were never a part of the Old Religion.
"How do Wiccan folk practice their faith today? There is no central authority or doctrine, and individual covens vary a great deal. But most meet to celebrate on nights of the Full Moon, and at eight great festivals or Sabbats throughout the year.
"Though some practice alone or with only their families, many Wiccans are organized into covens of three to thirteen members. Some are led by a High Priestess or Priest, many by a Priestess/Priest team; others rotate or share leadership. Some covens are highly structured and hierarchical, while others may be informal and egalitarian. Often extensive training is required before initiation, and coven membership is considered an important commitment." Similair to Christian baptism. Typically, a potential initiate is required to wait a year and a day til they are actually initiated.
"There are many branches or 'traditions' of Wicca…such as the Gardnerian, Alexandrian, Welsh Traditional, Dianic, Faery, Seax-Wicca and others. All adhere to a code of ethics. None engage in the disreputable practices of some modern 'cults', such as isolating and brainwashing impressionable, lonely young people. Genuine Wiccans welcome sisters and brothers, but not disciples, followers or victims.
"Coven meetings include ritual, celebration and magick (the 'k' is to distinguish it from stage illusions). Wiccan magick is not at all like the instant 'special effects' of cartoon shows or fantasy novels, nor medieval demonology; it operates in harmony with natural laws and is usually less spectacular – though effective. Various techniques are used to heal people and animals, seek guidance, or improve members' lives in specific ways. Positive goals are sought: cursing and "evil spells" are repugnant to practitioners of the Old Religion.
"Wiccans tend to be strong supporters of environmental protection, equal rights, global peace and religious freedom, and sometimes magick is used toward such goals.
"Wiccans tend to be individualists, and have no central holy book, prophet, or church authority. They draw inspiration and insight from science, and personal experience. Each practitioner keeps a personal book or journal in which s/he records magickal 'recipes', dreams, invocations, songs, poetry and so on. [This book is referred to as a 'Book of Shadows']
"To most of the Craft, every religion has its own valuable perspective on the nature of Deity and humanity's relationship to it: there is no One True Faith. Rather, religious diversity is necessary in a world of diverse societies and individuals. Because of this belief, Wiccan groups do not actively recruit or proselytize: there is an assumption that people who can benefit from the Wiccan way will 'find their way home' when the time is right."
(Amber K. author of "True Magick", Our Lady of the Woods, P.O. Box 176, Blue Mounds, Wisconsin 53517. § )
"One is not 'converted' to Wicca, rather, the new comer feels a sense of 'Coming Home', or, more poetically, The Goddess calls to Her own.
"There is no counterpart to the Devil, as such, in the Pagan religions... no personification of All Evil, rather, the choice is there for all to make. However, there is the Law of Three Fold Return, which states 'That which thou dost send out shall return three fold', so good begets good, and evil befalls those who are evil (a horrendous understatement and simplification, but true)."
(Paul Hume, Thelemite, and Ceremonial Magician, GEnie, Top 13, Cat 47, April 2, 1991. § )
Witches do not worship Satan, as to worship Satan would give credibility to the Christian religion, and it hardly makes sense to worship a figure from a religion you don't believe in. When gathering in a circle, it is common to "invoke the Goddess", and welcome her into the circle. Some would say this is how witches unwittingly call the spirit of Satan into their midst. I contend however, that they are doing basically the same thing as when Christians gather, and pray that God would send his Holy Spirit among their midst, and bless the proceedings.
The Universal Unconscious
The medieval philosopher Basilius Valentinus reveals a basic belief of Paganism in that; "The Earth is not a dead body but is inhabited by the spirit that is its life and soul. All created things draw their strength from this Earth spirit. This spirit is life; it is nourished by the stars and it gives nourishment to all living things it shelters in it's womb."
"We are one with everything that exists. Everything that Is was made by
some higher Force along the ordered lines of concrete physical laws. Along
with all life, we partake of the communal Life Force, and as we partake,
so can we interact. This interaction is magick. The Life Force that is
indigenous to our planet is our Creator's legacy to all living things. It
cannot be owned, yet it belongs to all of us."
The unconscious of the individual is connected to the unconscious of every other being through the Universal Unconscious, of which the the individual's unsconscious is but a part. Concsciously changing one's unconscious is the process of magick. As one's own unconscious is part of the greater unconscious, changing one's own unconscious affects the unconscious of all the others. As the unconscious affects the conscious, and the conscious affects the activities of the physical, so can magick work to change behaviour in us and others. (See diagram below).
[note: i made this diagram back in 1990 several years before ever encountering anthroposophy. with what i know now, i would update the terminology: i would relate the unconscious to timeless spirit, and the conscious soul is the feeling mediator between transient physical sensation and timeless universal spirit (which is grasped in our cognition through the intuiting (i.e. 'percieving') of the concept connected with things percieved with the physical senses, and mediated to our knowing through the feeling soul). for a glimpse of the cosomological schema i had constructed in that period, click here. --Ed 2004].
In the practice of magick, it is important to realise that the person doing the magick must; i) believe that it will work, and ii) visualize the actual intent or purpose of the magick that is being performed. The symbols and implements used in performing magick have no inherent value of themselves, and only serve as a focus to concentrate the WILL – this being their sole purpose. Exact wording or procedure are not ultimately desirable, modification of spells and rituals so that they have greater personal significance to the caster is more important. Magickal symbols that are purchased ready-made in a store hold no power, and have the least potential for containment of magickal power, as the magician has not made them himself, and are therefore of less personal significance to him. A spell has absolutely no power unless the speaker thoroughly believes that it will work, and the speaker is concentrating solely on the effect that the spell will have with as much concentration and emotion as possible. The greater the concentration and emotion, the greater the power of the spell, if the caster is distracted, or has doubt, then there will be no power behind it. Never do magical implements have any inherent power. The theory of magick requires some background:
In a dynamical system, such as the surface of a lake, every ripple and form is 'memorized.' A ripple dies away, but never completely, it becomes part of the 'background noise'. If a form presents a resonant channel, any memory can then be retrieved from this background noise. (Turbulent Mirror, Briggs & Peat, 1991. § ) This is how the brain operates. Memory is not stored in a location, but in an endless interaction that buzzes with noise. Recall is achieved through selective resonance. The Universal Unconscious is also like this. Each being is part of the ether – a neuron through which the ripples flow in the sea of life consciousness.
The Universal Unconscious is a network that connects our insides – our deepest selves – the unconscious. There is no access from the external, there is only a one way access from the unconscious (soul), to the conscious (spirit) to the physical. The Universal Unconscious is thus a conduit through which Divine Will is communicated, it is the ether that connects the 'Body of Christ'.
Magick is therefore the process whereby we direct change internally onto our unconscious selves by an act of Will. As our unconscious is part of the Universal Unconscious (as the envelope of a wave holds it's shape in a river's turbulence) our unconscious affects the whole Universal Unconscious that is; thereby influencing that which is external to our physical selves.
Theology? What Theology?
If you would like a label for the theistics of a Pagan, I might consider myself a panentheistic polytheistic monotheist. If, like some, you were to regard yourself as a polytheistic monotheist, you might want to call yourself a Neoplatonist. Plotinus had this idea that since the understanding of the "One" was out of the realm of human abilities, we understand and give names to parts or emanations of the "One". Keep in mind though, that if you ask three Pagans a question, you are sure to get five answers. You can not define neo-Paganism as a set of beliefs, but it encompasses a wide variety of Traditional, usually polytheistic "country" religions. It includes religions as diverse as Astartu (Nordic Paganism) Wicca (a recreation of traditional European country religions, with a considerable influence from ceremonial magick), neoDruidic recreations based on pan-European practices like the ADF, recreations of the Ancient Greek, Egyptian and Mesopotamian Religions, and more Traditional (if somewhat eclectic) orders like Thelemites, The Order of the Golden Dawn, OTO and other Ceremonial traditions. Even within a single Segment of the neoPagan community, there are wide variations. For example, in Wicca alone there are several dozen varieties, including; Welsh, Celtic, Seax, Garnerdian, Alexandrian and FŌry.
For most Witches, there is only one deity much like Christianity; however this deity reveals itself in various manifestations. Generally, as opposed to the Christian God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, Wiccans prefer to emphasize the female aspects of Maiden, Mother, and Crone. To show the duality and unity of God, both The God, and The Goddess are worshiped, but is taken for granted that both represent different aspects of the one, just like the Father and the Son are one. Furthermore, some Wiccans carry this further, saying that God is manifest in many forms, each of which reflects a particular nature of God. These are what are referred to as gods. They parallel the function of the Jungian Archetypes. When worshiping a particular god, you essentially focus in on one quality of God. It would be similiar if the Christians said God is love, and then saying Love is patient, love is kind, etc. And then holding a worship service in honour of God's patience, and another service in honour of God's kindness, etc. When recognizing the manifestation of deity in all things we will give praise to things created as well as to the creator. Giving praise to the almighty's handiwork also gives glory to the creator. If a person praises a piece of artwork, it is also a compliment to the artist. Christians have long denied the dual nature of gender in the deity, and this is probably why they felt they had to fill the gap with the Mother Mary. As they denied the Goddess in God, Christians found a needed Goddess figure in the image of Mary – the Mother of God.
But What Do They Do? Are they Anti-Christian?
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