Storm's Journal


Caspar Friedrich - The Traveller 


Who Are the Witches?

When I look at you
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)

Introduction

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 everything strange is also a home)

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
part of yourself. What isn't part of ourselves doesn't disturb us.
(Hermann Hesse, 1877-1962) ";

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'.

merry met,
moonsong, 1990.

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)




Witchcraft

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."
(Lisa Peschel, High Priestess, A Practical Guide to the Runes, Llewellyn Books, 1990 § )

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).

Concentric Layers of Being

[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?
Who is their Ruling Deity?

None of the pagan festivals are aimed 'against Christianity'; actually Christianity borrows from and reacts to paganism rather than the other way around.

"In Celtic traditions, trees are indeed quite important. Some are used in the sacred fires for yearly rituals. Some are considered to be symbols of individual deities. Trees in general are usually considered sacred, and the tree is one of the symbols for the cosmos itself, in both Celtic and Norse mythology.

"Different trees are said to have different properties, different associations, and are used in various kinds of magick. As a for-instance, Rowan is a tree used for counter-magick and magickal protection. An old charm involves taking the branches of Rowan trees and securing them over the door of your house to keep away baneful magick and secure good luck.

"There are a number of Celtic Pagani I know who are learning Irish, Welsh or Scots GŌlic as liturgical languages, or so they can read the tales and poetry in the original languages to get a better understanding of the root material of the cultural traditions. I'm taking lessons in Irish and have been for the past year or so. I'm studying with my friend Domi, who is the current ArchDruid of the ADF (Ar nDraiocht Fein, a neo-Druidic group started by Isaac Bonewits.)

"As to the question of "which Gods rule the others" I think that it would depend largely on how you view dominance. The Celtic mythos does propose a vague hierarchy, with warrior deities and poetic/magickal deities on the top. But the "rulership" seems to end there. Nobody claims dominion over all the other God/desses. Each has their own family and clan interactions. There are entire societies of deific figures, and for the most part, the Celtic deities (at least in the stories I am familiar with) had no particular objections to Christianity except in considering it somewhat humourless. Oisin, the son of Fionn mac Cumhail, returned from the Land of Promise (a Pagan otherworld) only to meet up with Padraig, or "St. Patrick". When he was told that he couldn't take his hounds to heaven with him when he died, he was upset enough to state that he wanted no part of such a heaven, where noble and loyal beasts couldn't be with their masters. Not anti-Christian, just very very Non-Christian.

"I personally don't see that the Gods are highly concerned with who rules whom at this point in time. They interact on individual levels within their clan and familial contexts, and what I have seen leads me to believe that though they talk to one another and that some deference is paid to seniors, there is no one ruling deity in that "pantheon". I could be wrong.

"Because the Celts have no creation story preserved from ancient times, I have no way of knowing who would be primary on that level. Danu is said to be the Mother of the Gods, but she is rarely mentioned in the tales. I have "seen" her and she feels very ancient, and not always interactive. She strikes me more as a source than a force, if you get what I mean.

"Manannan also is one of the older deities. He seems to act as a gateway between - you name the duality, he is probably the in-between state. He is also earlier than the rest of the Tuatha de Danann, whom he is said to be related to. Related, but separate. He does seem to have a certain amount of power among them, as he is the one who gave them the sidhe mounds that they made their dwellings.

"Daghda, the Good God (good at things, not "morally superior") was a deific king, but there were many others.

"Basically, I guess what I'm saying is that in the Irish "pantheon" there is no one ruling God/dess that everyone else defers to on all occasions and decisions. They seem to respect each other generally for their abilities and from what I have seen and experienced, they also respect their human followers for talents and abilities.

"Festivals - in neoPaganism generally, there are eight main festivals, called Sabbats, which take place approximately evenly spaced through the year. The new year starts at Samhain (pronounce it SAH-wen) which most folks would recognize as Halloween. It is a festival of beginnings and endings, our day of memorial for the dead.

"After Samhain is the winter solstice, called Yule, Saturnalia, the festival of Sol Invictus. This is the birth of the sun-child, and a good excuse to party in the otherwise dull mid-winter season.

"We celebrate also a festival around February 1, which is called variously Brighidh, Imbolc, or Oimelc, as well as being referred to as Candlemas. This is the earliest of the spring festivals, and happens about the time when the sheep give birth in agricultural societies in northern Europe.

"After this, we have the spring equinox. This is the festival that falls closest to Easter (which is named after Eostre, a fertility Goddess from Germanic territory). That's where we get the bunnies and eggs thing, too. Both are fertility emblems and associated with Goddesses of fertility.

"Next is Beltain, the first of May. This is actually the beginning of the summer season. It is the time of the marriage of Goddess and God in many traditions. For some, Beltain is marked by the blooming of the white thorn or hawthorn tree (called May tree as well). We dance around maypoles and leap over bonfires for purification and to celebrate the fertility of the deities.

"Beltain is the holiday that celebrates the beginning of summer. It is a seasonal rite, rather than one commemorating any specific "event" in the life of a teacher or holy person. In Wiccan mythology, this is the time of year when the Goddess and the Young God meet in sacred marriage to bring fertility to the fields and forests. It is celebrated with maypole dances, bonfires and feasting…

"Beltain is Gaelic, so it is primarily a Celtic festival. Celtic Pagans tend to worship primarily the deities of the Welsh, Irish, Scots, Cornish, Manx and/or Breton deity groups. Some of us do read the books referred to above – bardic poetry, druidic lore, the epic tales and the magickal stories all serve as sources of wisdom, but I wouldn't call them our "scripture." Some don't read them at all, others study them deeply, looking for ways to reconstruct what was lost during the long Christian occupation of the Celtic lands.

"After Beltain is the summer solstice. This falls about June 21st most years. It is the second summer festival, and generally deals with the growing crops.

"Next is Lammas, or Lughnassadh, about August 1st. This is the festival of the first grain harvest, where the grain God dies. Listen to the folk song "John Barleycorn" for an idea of what this festival is about. Bread is a big ritual item for this time of year. Lammas is derived from Anglo-Saxon "loaf-mass" and it's definitely a grain festival.

"After Lammas comes the fall equinox, which is a middle-harvest festival. It happens in September, and I suppose you could consider it our equivalent of Thanksgiving (which is itself a very late harvest festival).

"With that, we come back to Samhain, which, in addition to being the new year, is also the beginning of winter, and the final harvest of the year. The remaining cattle in herding societies were slaughtered because it would be impossible for the entire herd to survive the winter - weak animals were killed so the strong ones would have a better chance. Any fruits left on trees and vines after this festival were considered "bad" for humans, and the fairies were said to have made off with the substance in them.

"As you can see, there is nothing anti-Christian in any of these festivals. They are primarily concerned with the progress of the farming and herding cycles of the year. The cycles are of course more complex that this brief overview, but they are for the most part fairly old. There is some evidence that the solstices and equinoxes were never celebrated by the Celts as religious holidays. They were probably not particularly noted at all. There are actually two different year-cycles expressed, which is why Wiccan theology on the subject is kind of messy - Wicca is trying to reconcile two different cycles into one big God and Goddess story.

"Add to that eight-festival cycle the twice-monthly events of New and Full Moon celebrations, and you have a fairly complete picture of the neoPagan religious calendar. Different traditions celebrate other dates from time to time." (E.LAURIE [Erynn/Lorax], GEnie, Cat 33, Top 6 Msg 83, Jul 04, 1992. § )

"There are a lot of things about the old ways that we don't accept now – sacrifice of animals (Just as Christians now reject the Old Testament commands to sacrifice animals. § ), the supreme authority of the Druids as social leaders, the ways of battle that were primary in much of the old Celtic religions. But there are other things that we embrace and find useful, like forms of divination (ogham, omens, meditations), some of the wisdom expressed in the Triads or in the tales, accounts of magickal techniques, the stories of the Gods and Goddesses.

"Now, learning Paganism is a long process. To be a Pagan is not a path for everyone. It requires a great deal of work, self-examination and dedication. That is, if you want to really be a Pagan and not just claim the name without getting either the connections or the development that comes with the path.

"There are as many ways of being Pagan as there are Pagan practitioners, but most often Paganism includes reverence for the Old God/desses, a sense of the earth and all life on it (and throughout the multiverse) as sacred and a part of an overall web or a whole. We try to acknowledge our relationship to these other forms – for most of us seem to believe that the earth, in fact the entire multiverse, is alive in a sense that we can only barely begin to touch or appreciate.

"Reading is important, particularly for those separated by distance from others who would be willing to teach, but most important of all is the experience of touching the world around you. Talking to trees and listening for their answers. Watching the birds fly by and hearing their song. Seeing the movement of clouds, tides, seasons. All of this is a part of what it means to be Pagan. At its base, even Gods and Goddesses are not strictly "necessary" to Paganism. It is the reverence for life in all its manifest forms that is important. Gods and Goddesses are a part of that life. Some speak to individuals and call them to service. Others only wait to be discovered and communicated with. Some seem to be more or less indifferent to humanity and more concerned with other things in the world.

"Knowledge of those experiences can't be found in books, no matter how many of them you read. Wisdom comes from combining your reading and your intellectual explorations of things like comparative mythology or cultural anthropology or history with your direct experiences of the cycles of day and night, summer and winter, growth and harvest. That cyclic experience might be said to be the essence of a Pagan path."

(Erynn Laurie, GEnie, May 3, 1992, Cat 28, Top 30, Msg. 497. § )

How does one become a Witch? In effect, one must already be a Witch, in order to be initiated as a Witch. When the potential initiate asks to become initiated, he must wait a year and a day until the actual initiation ceremony. All Wiccans are expected to become Priests or Priestesses, this doesn't mean that all Neo-Pagans expect to have a little congregation follow them around. What it means is that no middle man is needed for an experience of deity, or for communication with deity. People that would equate a Wiccan/NeoPagan clerical status with that of an Episcopalian priest or a Baptist minister are really doing a disservice to themselves and others. It is really more similiar to Luther's concept of "the priesthood of all believers"

neoPaganism right now is a new religion that is reconstructionist in nature. The traditions it tries to reconstruct are thousands of years old, but the neo-Paganism right now is about where Christianity was in its early years. Therefore, it's doctrines and theologies are not as well defined as some of the Christian doctrines.

To learn about Paganism, just look at your calendar. The days of the week are mostly named after pagan gods, even in other languages. The months of the year begin with one named after Janus. Then begin to look at holidays. I'm sure you're familiar with the theory that Yeshua ben Yusuf was not born in December. The prevailing thought is that the festival celebrating his birth (Christmas) was so placed to supplant both the heathen Winter Solstice and the festival of the Birth of Mithra (Natalis InvictŌ) who, by the way, was also born in a cave, attended by wise men, of a virgin. Easter is named for the festival in honour of Astarte, whose sacred symbols are the hare and the egg.

In Wicca, it is traditional to call on, or greet, the four corners when casting a circle. The east is air, and his colour is yellow, the south is fire, and his colour is red, the west is water, and her colour is blue, the north is earth, and her colour is green. These elemental assignments are derived from ceremonial magick, which originally got them from the Kabalah. The use of the four corners, and elemental assignments can be traced directly back to the same sources as the four angels at the four corners of the Earth in Isaiah and Revelations, and also in the Book of Enoch. (Isaiah 11:12 : "from the four corners of the Earth", Revelation 7:1 : "I saw four angels on the four corners of the earth holding back the four winds of the earth." The Book of Enoch XL. XLI. 2:8-10: "After that I asked the angel of peace who went with me, who showed me everything that is hidden: 'Who are these four presences which I have seen and whose words I have heard and written down?' And he said to me: 'The first is MichŌl, the merciful and long-suffering: and the second, who is set over all the diseases and all the wounds of the children of men, is RapŌl: and the third, who is set over all the powers, is Gabriel: and the fourth, who is set over the repentance unto hope of those who inherit eternal life, is named Phanuel.' And these are the four angels of the Lord of Spirits and the four voices I heard in those days." § )

"For some folks, it's the practice that is entirely the important thing. But for those of us who wish to base our practices in a cultural milieu, it is important to study what that culture did and how it operated in order to work magick in that style and offer what we consider "proper" worship to the God/desses. As a for-instance, there is no evidence of incense in ancient Irish culture (unless, of course, you count the everpresent peat fire :) while in the middle east, it is an almost inseparable part of all the recorded religious services. If I wanted to create a ritual to Ashera, I would do it very differently than a ritual to Brighidh. Incense would be necessary in an Ashera ritual, while I would be likely to light a peat fire for Brighidh.

"I think that language is also important. It isn't that the God/desses can't or won't understand us if we speak English (or whatever our native language might be) but that it seems they are pleased when they hear their 'native language' spoken. I received very specific instructions from my Matron deity that I needed to learn Irish. It was just that simple. She said "I want to hear the old tongue spoken." Who am I to argue with a direct request of that nature? It wasn't until much later that I began to appreciate just how much would be hidden from me if I didn't comply with the request.

"On the other hand, there are folks who honestly believe that Wicca began in the caves of matriarchal wandering gathering vegetarians 30,000 years ago, but that's another story. Everyone needs roots. Some are loath to admit that things were made up yesterday, or 50 years ago, or even 5,000 years ago by somebody. Everything has an origin. It's my belief that if we are going to claim a cultural title for our religious beliefs and practices, that we had certainly better make at least a passing stab at finding out what that culture did and believed!

"Let's face it, just because you call something "Celtic" or Japanese or Yoruban or Native American doesn't mean that it is that. It takes more than a name to be real.

"Neo-Paganism is reconstructionist and recreationist, and sometimes just creative. There are many paths within that wide road. Each has something unique to it. Some practices do have roots traceable to older cultures and others don't. Neither case is necessarily better than the other. It depends largely on temperament. By initiation, I'm an Alexandrian. That's a Wiccan tradition that is somewhat younger than Gardnerianism, by virtue of being derived from it. I accept it for what it is, and I don't go looking for ancient, decrepit roots that don't exist. It doesn't matter that Alex [Saunders] cobbled it together. What matters is that it works.

"I'm in the process of cobbling together a Celtic tradition. What matters to me about that is that it falls into line with the Celtic culture in some important ways. I can't say that it was "handed down to me from the ancient Celts in an unbroken line of succession" but hey, I'm not into that. What I can say is "this tradition is based on my interpretation of what I have learned of the practices and beliefs of the Celts." And what I have learned is not inconsiderable. But it isn't "pure" in any sense, because my magickal and religious life will always be influenced by my prior religious and magickal training and experiments."

(E.LAURIE [Erynn/Lorax], GEnie, Category 33, Topic 6 Message 147, July 10, 1992. § )

"A question that too few members of any group ponder enough is why they include themselves within that group. To put it possibly too simply, a person is Pagan because they act/feel Pagan. Let me try and say this carefully-Pagan religions do not care much about belief and faith. It has to do with feelings, and expression of those feelings in symbol sets, via music, language, dance, poetry... All of the arts. I do not believe in Deity. I have experienced Deity. Now, you are free to argue that I am wrong, decieved, etc., but I of course can say the same thing to you, with exactly the same justifications...

"We are a community of practicioners, and not necessarily a community of believers. I find Deity to exist independantly of my own mind. I'm not too fond of attempts to reduce all religious phenomenon to semi-Jungian psychobabble. But then, I have a non-mainstream approach to the psychology of personality and society.

"While I am not my work, I am as I do, and the way that is expressed within my life is as Paganism. Erynn and I are doing a series of workshops on Irish Poetic meditiational techniques, I write ritual, occasional poetry, and sometimes weave ritual cords/belts for people. I read, sometimes garden, and take walks in delightful bits of old growth forest a mere ten blocks from my front door. We invite people over for dinner and conversation, and share dinner with the Gods and spirits. That is my Paganism."

(E.LAURIE [Lorax], GEnie, Cat 33 Top 6 Msg 216, July 25, 1992. § )

A Few Notes On Wicca

First -- "There is no Illuminati... most of us tend to see the Illuminati as an elaborate joke having more to do with conspiracy theory than with reality. There have been "ex-Witches," "ex-Druids" and other ex's running the Christian talk-show circuit making extravagant claims about how they were "members of the Council of Twelve" and "Illuminati Chiefs" (Johnny Todd comes do mind) stating that they had "thousands of top witches" under their command. For some reason, though Lorax and I probably know over a thousand Pagans, Witches, Druids and other assorted folk, none of them that we know of were among these "top witches" mentioned. I'd think that there would be at least one among them, don't you? Either that, or the conspiracy is real and everyone is really a member, except, of course those of us in the neoPagan movement…

"Pagans are oftentimes their own worst enemies. Otter g'Zell ran off to the south pacific to look for mermaids after creating "unicorns" and selling them to a circius. He still is quite respectable among a significant portion of the Pagan community, though quite frankly I'm at a loss to understand why.

"Then again, let's take a look at TV evangelists. Not the Christian's best friend either. I know folks who are apparently Christian that I would wonder about the planetary origin of too.

"It's unfortunate but true that the Craft and the neoPagan movement has a tendency to attract a few fruits and nuts along with the decent folk. But you'll find that in any fringe movement, (even in mainstream movements) particularly ones that espouses the reality of magick. Some folks just can't tell magickal reality from daily reality from fantasy. Some want to escape from a life that is far too unforgiving and just slide off the edge quietly.

"Also problematic is the fact that these are the ones who attract the most publicity. Laurie Cabot, for all her good work, looks like a freak in that heavy egyptique eye makeup she wears. She takes advantage of every photo-op to be seen in cemetaries carting brooms and wearing black. That kind of help we really don't need. Christian TV also caters to that image, with "ex- Witches" claiming everything from poisoning Halloween candy to participating in human sacrifices - neither of which is a particularly sane thing to do (and neither of which has had any proof brought forward either, I might add.) You get the fluff and bubbles "witches" on new age TV shows, and you get the hollywood imagery that all tend to attract folks who might be just a tad bit deranged. It obscures the sincerity, intelligence, and hard work of the main body of Paganfolk, those of us who don't run around begging for interviews and getting our faces plastered all over the national news."

(E.LAURIE [Erynn/Lorax], GEnie, Cat 33 Top 6 Msg 164, Jul 13, 1992 § )

Part of the problem with neo-Paganism in general is that we (I'll painfully admit) seem to attract more than our share of charlatans and flakes. It seems to me that people that are a bit left of centre get attracted into the craft because of the mistaken perceptions by the general population that things that are "occult" are strange and weird. It's those people that detractors seem to fasten onto when calling our validity into question. For each of those, though, there's ten good teachers who do their bit quietly and effectively, being more concerned with doing the right thing than getting attention for it. These quacks are the ones that get into the craft, and give it a bad name. There is a copious amount of these types of people in most fringe movements and even many of the mainstream religions. For every so-called pagan that tries to sell "Crystal Brainwave Amplifiers" there are guys that say "Lay your hand on the television screen and get your healing", or "as soon as the money goes in the offering basket, your deceased's soul jumps into heaven". The student must learn to discern between the flakes and phonies, and seek out good, reputable teachers. Discernment comes from study, and a longing for truth and goodness.

--

this portion concludes a fraction and but an outline of witchcraft as i studied it almost two decades ago. since then, the winding road has lead me ever onwards, ever upwards. the true initiation never ends...

unfortunately, i haven't had time to make this shorter. one day, it'll recieve a proper edit, and the ideas brought together and clarified, and tested for consistency. as it stands now, its still a brain-dump... :\

References: 

- Cosmological Schema circa 1995
- The Cornerstone Series on Mike Warnke




Submit an Article 
Posted: March 5, 2004