Posts tagged ‘Wicca’

Yes, Virginia! Wiccans Can Be Polytheists

One of my values is *sovereignty* and that means respecting the rights of individuals, as well as different traditions and cultures to speak for themselves and define their boundaries. That includes Wicca. Some Wiccans are polytheists. They have explained their polytheism, though they shouldn’t have to, only to have *some* (not all) polytheists explain this away.

This not mean that I accept everyone who claims the label polytheist as polytheist- I have an inclusive definition, but it still has limits, so the word doesn’t become as watered down and meaningless as “pagan” has. Words can have some fluidity in meaning yes, but we need some degree of shared meaning in order to communicate.  I wonder a bit if the adjective might be more helpful than the noun. I also like the Anglo-Saxon “manygodded”- it’s a description, not an “ism”.

I just added this to my Inclusive Polytheism post- since it seems some folks need a reminder-

  • Polytheists do not all adhere to any one political ideology or party, apart from most likely, supporting religious freedom and impartiality towards a variety of religions and non-religious people. (As for separation of church & state- this may very by country)

Granted, there are polytheists out there that have political/ideological and theological beliefs and practices that I have serious moral objections too (racism, sexism, homo/bi/transphobia et al) But I’m not claiming their polytheism isn’t genuine just because I disagree or don’t want to collaborate with them.

There are many religions like Wicca that include polytheists in their midst, but aren’t *only* polytheist by definition. Other examples-

A theistic Satanist or Luciferian might be a henotheist- who focuses worship on Satan or Lucifer within a framework of polytheism, or a more general polytheist.

Buddhism is often depicted in the West as the Super-Rational Atheist-approved No Gods Here! religion/philosophy, but in spite of it tending to be less worship focused, deities, buddhas, boddhisattvas (who are more like saints) and ancestor spirits are honored. There’s also some overlap with Hinduism, and Shinto…and I will just let more knowledgeable folks explain this more.

There is a lot of disagreement about whether polytheistic monism (as found in Hinduism, some types of Neoplatonism, some kinds of Wicca) counts as “true” polytheism. Honestly, I am mostly just sick of the hostility of this debate. If theology nerds want to hash it out in a civil fashion, OK great.

One of my fellow members (indeed a founder!) of Clann Bhride, a devotional Brighidine order I belong to, is Chris Scott Thompson, and he has a well-put together explanation of polytheistic monism here on Patheos- Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4. Agree or disagree respectfully with his theological views or his scholarship- in any case, he knows a lot more about Neoplatonism and Hinduism than I do, but more importantly to me anyway is that he’s a great person who does a lot of good work for his communities and his Gods/spirits/ancestors. We have a quite diverse membership in Clann Bhride and hold these Nine Elements in common, but there is much room for interpretation. Devotion, ethics, and fellowship are to us what matter.

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March 11, 2016 at 7:52 am 1 comment

Mystery Traditions/Religions

Many religions have a distinction between exoteric- or outer knowledge available to all members of a religion, and esoteric, inner knowledge only available to a smaller class of initiates as part of a mystery tradition or mystery religion. In many cases throughout history and various cultures, this pool of potential initiates could only be from the noble or priestly castes. In others, such as many of the mysteries of Greece & Roman, they were available to any free citizen (some only to men or to women)

To be considered for initiation, a participant must be seen as spiritually, physically and psychologically ready for the intense, trans-formative and ecstatic experiences involved. An initiation often involves an ordeal- a difficult and possibly dangerous test. If a prospective initiate does not pass such an ordeal, this means a denial of initiation at that time or for the rest of this life. It is called a mystery because not only is it secret, but because the participants have gone through an experience they cannot describe to others. In several of the Greek & Roman mysteries, it was believed that one could only gain entrance to the afterlife- or a better afterlife by going through these mysteries- hence they were very popular.

Wicca and witchcraft in most forms are both mystery traditions. It is certainly perfectly valid to practice many forms of Paganism in an exoteric manner- focusing on celebration and regular devotion- as a layperson, or simply in a tradition that does not have a clergy/laity distinction. Other traditions of Paganism exist only in esoteric form, and one must be initiated to participate. In Wicca- there are typically 3 degrees of initiation, and the third makes you eligible to lead a coven and initiate others. Many covens have what is called an Outer Court, which includes people who are not yet initiated, or have only their 1st degree. The Inner Court is reserved for members who at least have a 1st degree. Lots of Outer Court material has been released to the public- starting in particular with Rites from the Crystal Well by Ed Fitch, Wicca for the Solitary Practitioner by Scott Cunningham. As a result, Wicca- or as traditionalists may call it Neo-Wicca* has spread like wildfire. Though solitaries frequently self-initiate, I believe the term *dedicate* is more accurate, and think initiation is something that must be done by another person, generally within a group structure like a coven, grove or magical lodge. I’m not Wiccan, however so really my opinion on this is moot, though we do have initiation in various types of Druidry, such as ADF, the organization I belong to.

*Note: some people will consider the term “Neo-Wicca” to be derogatory, use with discretion. Non-traditional, eclectic or non-British Traditional Witchcraft (BTW) are less controversial terms to use.

Mystery traditions and religions are also found outside of Paganism. Christianity arguably started as a mystery religion, and in some cases still is- particularly in Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy. This is even more so for priests, monks and nuns. Likewise in Buddhism and Hinduism, there are regular practitioners as well as members of more esoteric sects. Mormonism is also an interesting case- a regular member of the LDS church attends services at a ward, similar in set up to many Protestant sects. But if an adult Mormon fulfills certain requirements, he or she can get what’s called a Temple recommend, and gain access to special ceremonies in the Temple. This is modeled after Temple-era Judaism’s Holiest of Holies, and also has influence from Freemasonry, as their prophet Joseph Smith was a Mason- like Gerald Gardner. So bizarrely enough, Mormonism is in some ways Wicca’s distant cousin.

Questions to reflect on:

What’s the difference between exoteric and esoteric?

Do you need to be initiated or become part of a mystery tradition to be a Pagan?

Do you need to be initiated or become part of a mystery tradition to be Wiccan?

In *your opinion* is self-initiation valid? In what tradition(s)? Under what circumstances and why? (No right or wrong answer here!)

Does the religion of your upbringing (if any) have a mystery tradition or esoteric aspects?

May 22, 2015 at 3:22 am 1 comment

Magic & Religion

One thing that attracts many people to Paganism(s) is a curiosity about magic (sometimes spelled magick). Magic is a common practice among many religions that fall under the Pagan umbrella. But you don’t need to be Pagan to practice magic, and not all Pagans practice magic. Many Christians and Jews have practiced forms of magic throughout history and still do today. You also don’t need to practice or believe in a religion to practice magic.

I don’t practice magic (being rather skeptical of it, in fact!) so this post will be briefer than some of the others. Mainly I wanted to clear up the distinctions between magic, religion and Paganism, and discuss different types of magic. If you want to learn more about *what magic is* from someone who practices it, check out Jenett’s page.

Folk Magic– magic as practiced by regular common people, handed down orally, folk magic traditions typically survive most strongly in rural areas that are more isolated from outside influence. Folk magic is often associated with folk religion- beliefs and practices of regular people that are not officially endorsed by religious authorities. Regular household objects and ingredients tend to be used, saints and plant or animal spirits might be asked for aid. Some traditions of folk magic are more open to people from outside the culture, others are much more secretive. Spiritual practices that are often labeled as “shamanic” in nature are often interrelated with folk magic and religion. (See future post on shamanism)

Witchcraft– a wide variety of magical practices, arising from Western cultural contexts. Witchcraft can be religious or non-religious, it includes Wicca but is not limited to it. That is- most Wiccans are Witches, but not all Witches are Wiccan. The word “witch” when translated into most languages generally comes off as very negative even in cultures where the practice of magic is quietly accepted. Just as it does in American and European cultures- typically in spite of public relations efforts! Therefore I would recommend if you speak another language, rather than directly translating witch, look for words that mean something like healer, wise one, herbalist and so forth. Though most self-identified witches are Pagans of some variety, there are also Christian Witches, Jewitches, atheist or agnostic Witches and yes, Satanic or Luciferian Witches. (See future post on syncretism)

Recommended: Jenett’s explanations of Wicca and religious witchcraft

Ceremonial magic– this body of magical arts and philosophies that underpin it are part of what is called the Western Mystery Tradition,  that draws from many sources including the Hebrew Kabbalah, esoteric and mystical forms of Christianity- such as Gnosticism, medieval & Renaissance lore about angels and demons, Greek and Roman philosophy- especially Neoplatonism, which had a major influence on Kabbalah. Tantra, a branch of Hindu philosophy & practice, and Egyptian religion are also influences. Ceremonial magic is typically practiced by secret societies or lodges, that require initiation. Freemasonry, though less magical in nature, is a related philosophy and order, and Gerald Gardner was a Mason, which accounts for Masonic influence on Wicca. Individuals also can practice ceremonial magic alone. Some examples of groups who practice ceremonial magic include- off-shoots of the Golden Dawn, Ordo Templi Orientalis- the order devoted to Thelema, the magical philosophy developed by Aleister Crowley. Ceremonial magicians may or may not choose to identify as Pagans- it often depends on if they have a desire for community outside of CM, or religiously identify as Pagans or have close associates that do so.

Chaos Magick– If you’re a fan of Dungeons & Dragons- while Ceremonial magicians are like Paladins or Wizards, Chaos Magicians (or chaotes) are the Rogues! Chaos magic is much more free form, sees belief as a tool and an active magical force. Chaotes typically draw freely from many sources, from traditional religions to pop culture. Use of technology- computers and the internet is very common- technomagick and technopaganism overlap quite a bit with chaotes, though technomages/technopagans are not necessarily chaotes. Discordianism– a part serious, part parody religion or philosophy- is also a big influence.

Pop Culture Magic– use of characters, concepts, symbols and phrases from popular culture (TV, films, comic books, manga, anime, video/computer games) in magical spells and rituals. This is usually an outgrowth of the ideas of chaos magic- the idea that “hey, if it works, use it”. Pop Culture Paganism or Polytheism is related, though I get the impression most people who engage in pop culture-influenced magic, don’t necessarily incorporate it into a religion. See my post on Pop Culture Paganism

May 17, 2015 at 4:32 am 4 comments

X-rated Religion: Sexual Ecstasy, Mystery & Social Boundaries

Replying to yet another great article by Shauna Aura Knight about sexual ethics in Pagan communities: Sexual Initiation, Consent & Rape

Speaking as an ex-cult member myself- I am going to say that I am against sexual initiations (or sex between teachers/clergy and students/laity) period. There was enough authoritarian manipulation from the leader of my group without sex being involved- I shudder to think about what would have happened if it did. Sometimes attraction does happen between students & teachers/clergy (of similar/appropriate ages!) but they need to be responsible adults and hold off on pursuing sex or romance until they are no longer in that power structure. In Minnesota (my state) law therapists and former clients are allowed to date/have sex after a few years of ending their professional relationship, if I am not mistaken. I think we should have a similar ethical standard among our communities, even if we probably couldn’t make it a law. I’m not sure about sex in ritual in general- it should be approached carefully, done for specific reasons (not “just because”) I really think we have swung too far to the anything goes hippie moral relativism and there’s huge range between that and insisting everyone is either strictly monogamously partnered or a Vestal virgin. It’s due to that mentality that we convince ourselves we need to be “tolerant” of people like the Frosts.

I am both a Druid & a Heathen, and while both are fairly broad umbrellas that include many viewpoints, neither cluster of traditions really has much of an emphasis on sex in ritual or magic. Some Heathens & Druids may choose to practice sex magic, especially in relation to ecstatic trance or spirit-work, but on the whole both Druids & Heathens are not really focused on heterosexual polarity or the “God & Goddess as a cosmic battery” in the way Wicca sometimes is. I’d also like to add, that on the whole polytheistic cultures of the past tended to be more sexually conservative than we are now, simply due to lack of reliable contraception, and the high risks of childbirth and infant mortality. Likewise, situational male homosexual behavior often occurred especially among young unmarried men because of the tight control over young women and separation of the sexes*. Mystery cults that focused on ecstasy- whether sexual, drug-induced etc. were sometimes repressed by the dominant social hierarchy for being disruptive to the social order. Witchcraft & Wicca are modern forms of mystery cults/religions, and likewise there are mystery cults and liminal or social/spiritual outsider associated practices within modern polytheistic religions or exist as traditions/religions unto themselves. But on the whole, both Druidry and Heathenry tend to focus more on the practices of the “ordinary” layperson.

(*Note: I am especially thinking about Greek, Roman and Near Eastern cultures here)

November 19, 2014 at 12:28 am 2 comments

Witchy Blog Award

witchy-blog-awardThanks to Nornoriel of the Serpent’s Labyrinth for nominating me for this award!

The Rules:

  • Dedicate at least part of a post to receiving the award and share the award logo
  • Thank the blogger who passed the award to you
  • Answer the seven questions below
  • Nominate five Wiccan/Pagan bloggers (If you don’t know five other pagan bloggers, nominate as many as you can)
  • Notify your nominees of their pending award
  • Stop by Ayslyn’s Corner to add your name to the list of bloggers awarded (she’s got a big list)
  • How did you “discover” Wicca/witchcraft/Neo-Paganism? I was very into mythology as a kid, met a neighbor’s daughter who introduced me to Wicca/Paganism and lent me some books. Growing up I realize was already thinking like a Pagan- when people talked about “Mother Nature” I thought she was God’s wife, and since my parents taught me to be tolerant of other religions, I was confused that worship of other Gods was condemned in the Bible. Shouldn’t it be a choice? I thought. I also liked finding out the origins of holiday customs and superstitions, and that was another way I connected with Paganism.
  • Do you grow herbs? I have a very shady lot with acidic soil, so it’s hard to grow things other than hostas & ferns. Plus, the squirrels dig up everything else we plant!
  • Are you “in the broom closet”? If not, share your coming out experience. As a teenager my Dad thought Paganism was just part of my mythology interest and not a real religion but later he “got” it. My mother believes in fairies, so it wasn’t too hard for her!  I am open about my religion to people I know well enough to discuss religion with and don’t set off my finely tuned fundamentalist detector. I often tell people I’m Unitarian (they usually don’t know what that is either!)  If they seem more interested in talking about it, then I’ll further explain Druidry.  I live in a pretty liberal urban area (Twin Cities) so I have the luxury of being pretty relaxed about using my real name at public Pagan events.
  • What tradition do you follow, if any? Currently I am working on re-defining and re-building my spiritual life while recovering from a period of depression-related agnosticism & doubt. I am a member of Ar nDraiocht Fein, a Neo-Pagan Druid organization and a Unitarian Universalist– which for me is more of a philosophy than a religion, but my UU church is my primary spiritual community currently.
  • Do you consider yourself a witch, Wiccan or Pagan (or maybe something else?) I use Celtic polytheist or Druid
  • How much of witchcraft/Wicca are you able to incorporate into your everyday life? Right now as I mentioned my focus is on recovering from depression and anxiety, so I’m creating a list of mental health self-care virtues based on Celtic and Norse cultures and building off of that base. I am mostly an armchair philosopher/theologian/ethicist and writer, but am trying to motivate myself to get back into actual practice.
  • Do you have a familiar? If you do, tell us how you meet him/her and how s/he takes part in your practice (if at all) No, but one of my favorite anime shows is Zero no Tsukaima, the Familiar of Zero 😉 It’s fun- kinda like an anime version of Harry Potter.

Nominations for Witchy Blog Award:

Jack-a-Dreams

Writings of a Pagan Witch

Ozark Pagan Mamma

Scorched Ice

Mist Seeking

 

 

 

August 14, 2014 at 12:41 am 1 comment

Depression/Mental Health Pagan Links

When searching for articles, posts and books on Paganism and depression/mental illness, I found so much stuff that I decided to make another post to include these resources, in addition to the general Pagan/Disability resources post. I will make another post about distinguishing mental illness from shamanism/visionary/magical experiences etc.

Pagans, Mental Health & Abuse– extra kudos for discussion of related social justice issues involving shame, access to care etc.

Pagans in Recovery by Isaac Bonewits- Old essay- numbers of people with “issues” may be exaggerated…for one I will say as an Aspie, I have detected a noticeable number of Pagans who may be unlabeled Aspies, but I don’t think *most* Pagans have Asperger’s/autism.

Pagan Therapy & Counseling– blog last updated in 2013, but still has good info

Dealing with DepressionExhaustion, Bees and Depression by Nimue Brown This is advice for people who have depressed friends/family members in their lives- very helpful and not specific to Paganism, the second is social commentary. I also thought she wrote a book about depression, but I can’t seem to find mention of it!

Finding Motivation– (and other posts) by Nornoriel Lokason on the Staff of Asclepius blog (Depression & PTSD)

The Importance of Maintaining a Healthy Level of Skepticism by Sarah Anne Lawless

“Almost everyone in the Pagan community has suffered from a mental illness at some point in their life because 20% of the general population (in Canada) has had mental health problems during their lifetime.” Err, not sure about that statement. It’s a lot though.

“Sometimes the (online and physical) Pagan Community is too accepting and accommodating of everyone’s own personal level of crazy. Because we are on the fringe, many think we have to accept anyone who identifies as one of us and take them as they come.  Sometimes we are too afraid to tell someone they are crazy (this is especially hard to do when the person in question is in a leadership role). After all, who is a Pagan (believing in many gods, spirits, and magic) to tell someone they’re nuts or are taking something too far? But when no one calls a stop or calls bullshit, then things do get taken too far and people with real mental illnesses end up being accepted as sane.”

My “primary” line with other people is when they want me involved in their “weird”. What’s my motivation? If people want to involve me in their personal weird/kink… they need to provide a reason for me to care.”- comment from Scylla

I feel that way too. I meet a lot of Pagans that are *so relieved to be accepted* that they feel the need to share everything (Hell, I’ll admit, I’ve probably been guilty of this at times too!) I’m pretty open-minded and accepting and non-threatening seeming so often I get Way TMI pseudo-therapy session info-dumps from people I just met. Umm, thanks for sharing. Some of these people just really need a friend. I understand that but *insta-friendship* share all your personal info at once is a good way to scare people off, not keep friends. It also leaves a person very vulnerable to manipulative people. Boundaries are a thing a lot of us need to work on.

Pagan & Crazy by Alexandra Chauran- “My Pagan path has led me to British Traditional Wicca, which can be a complicated route to follow when mentally ill.  Not only do I deal with the psychological issues inherent in any religious practice that involves the supernatural, but Traditional Wicca requires that I work with others who are historically cautious about the company they keep. In fact, Ed Fitch wrote a document titled “So You Want To Be A Gardnerian” that implies that the ideal prospective coven member is, “not currently in psychological therapy.” Coven of the Wild Rose does not accept people who take psychotropic medications or require therapy and writes as a footnote to the above document that, “if you cannot function as a fully responsible adult individual in the mundane reality then you cannot function effectively in the magical/mystical realities and should not even attempt to do so until you have all your oars in the water and they are working all in proper tandem.”- last part in bold seems reasonable to me.

I can understand if very disciplined, focused magical groups are more restrictive in their membership, personally I think people with mental health issues that are getting treatment and have been stable for a certain length of time should be included, a similar rule could be in place for former/recovering addicts & alcoholics. I think excluding anyone who takes SSRIs and such and/or sees a therapist now and then but otherwise lives a stable life is ridiculous.

August 8, 2014 at 9:58 pm Leave a comment

Mental Health Self-Care Virtues: Beauty

Beauty
The pursuit of beauty and elegance in thought, form and speech. (Vanic Virtue)

quote-10060

Text of image: Life is sometimes hard. Things go wrong, in life and in love and in business and in friendship and in health and in all the other ways that life can go wrong. And when things get tough, this is what you should do. MAKE GOOD ART

– Neil Gaiman

I think of this one more as a “value”- a concept that’s important, rather than a virtue, because to me that implies an ideal to live up to. I was reminded of this one while reading a post by a Christian friend- The Absence of Self-Care in the Church by Kati Hammar. She talked about how she felt selfish in her church in even taking simple pleasures like painting her nails, because she felt she was supposed to be thinking of others at all times. “One of the most hurtful things someone ever told me was, “You don’t have real problems. You aren’t precious. Children in Africa are precious and they have real problems.”

This is one of the reasons I don’t feel comfortable in churches anymore. For the most part, self-care and mental health are subjects that are stigmatized or even forbidden in some circles.”

Reading that made me feel really sad. Kati is such a sweet, thoughtful young woman, any church or community of any sort should be happy to have her. (Virtual hug!) Anyway, back to beauty. It sounds like a petty luxury at first- beauty. A luxury for wealthy, non-disabled, “sane” neurotypical people.

But take a step back from the great false idol that is the commercial beauty industry. One thing you notice about anthropology, is you study the world’s cultures and you find anywhere, in every society no matter how so-called “primitive” or focused on basic survival that culture is, they make art and music. They create beauty. Look at prisons and jails. Even prisoners of war and people on death row will create art with whatever materials they have available- even if they’re not allowed to, and the art they create is taken and destroyed. Why? Out of boredom, or to create trouble, prison guards might assume at first- but also to demonstrate their humanity. To express a voice that is silenced. Mentally ill people are also terribly dehumanized and silenced, and often end up in prisons and jails, sometimes because they have nowhere else to go.

Related Virtues: Creativity, Eloquence, Confidence, Dignity

Note: Beauty is also one of the 8 virtues mentioned in the Wiccan Charge of the Goddess.

Practices for Cultivating Beauty:

Follow Neil Gaiman’s advice- Make Art/Music/Write etc. I’m leaving out the “good” part, because who’s to judge what is good art or bad? Just make something, have fun with it, and don’t worry about how good it is. Stay away from people who discourage your creativity, and stifle your inner critic. Remember the prisoner artists- you don’t necessarily have to spend a bunch of money on art supplies. I would also count cooking and baking in ways you consider fun, rather than ordinary “oh, I have to cook dinner”, better yet invite over a friend!

Embrace Your Inner and Outer Beauty

Look in the mirror- think about what your good qualities are, and speak them aloud “I am kind, smart, beautiful, wise” etc.

Take a bath, add some bubbles or bath salts, enjoy yourself, put on some soft music, later put on lotion, makeup if you want, fun accessories and clothing that is comfortable and adds to your beauty. Feel free to step outside gender norms and experiment with different clothes/make-up if you feel comfortable doing so!

Resources:

Offbeat Bride– even if you’re not planning a wedding, this has a lot of fun ideas for fashion, (including many frugal ideas) entertaining for people who don’t fit the conventions of the wedding industry- GLBTQ folks, goths, geeks etc.

The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron (and sequels)

Ms. Cameron is a successful writer, who once believed that she “had” to drink in order to write, but came up with this self-help plan to help her learn to be creative without drinking. To follow this program, you make a contract with the “Great Creator” but this can be any deity you associate with creativity (I’m thinking Brighid!) , or perhaps an artsy ancestor like Frida Kahlo.

Play With Your Food– a book to help you create beauty and have fun

Pinterest board– with fun food visuals

July 26, 2014 at 12:49 am Leave a comment

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