Sunday, October 18, 2009

Real Witches...

I had a very difficult time deciphering precisely what it is Wiccans believe. Unfortunately so do the Wiccans. Witches are real, but they call themselves Wiccans. Unless they don’t. Then they’re called Witches or Warlocks, unless they find those terms offensive. Then you just call them “Hey you over there!”. Typically, they believe in two Gods; a God and a Goddess. Unless, they don’t. Then they might believe in a God called ‘The One’ (the God and Goddess are sometimes- but not always- viewed as incarnations of the God’s dual aspect), or no God at all. They have no scripture (and how could they? Could you imagine trying to read that book?) but they generally follow the Wiccan Rede: "An Ye Harm None, Do What Ye Will"(1). Although there is no specific definition given, even in the Rede’s full version, of precisely what constitutes ‘harm‘. They practice witchcraft, except when they don‘t.
It’s like a mix-and-match theology grab bag. There are a few common denominators, however. As I said, Wiccans generally follow the Wiccan Rede and have a reverence for the natural world. But the Rede is vague at best. Even the origins of the Rede are somewhat convoluted. In spite of it’s awkward and antiquated wording, there is no record that the Rede existed prior to a speech given by Doreen Valiente in 1964 (2). Even sources within the religion acknowledge that their principle code of ethics (the complete version of the Wiccan Rede) didn’t appear until the 1970’s (3). The Rede isn’t the only thing that’s new about the supposedly ancient religion.
In spite of Wicca’s attempt to poach credibility by implying it’s longevity, it is actually a new religion. Wicca was ‘invented’ in the 1950’s, following England’s repeal of laws prohibiting witchcraft, by a man named Gerald Gardner. Gardner worked as a customs officer before retiring after he was “initiated” into a coven 1939. In 1949 he wrote a fictional book about witches called High Magick's Aid (under the pen name Scire) before publishing the “non-fictional” work Witchcraft Today in 1954 (4).
Modern witches try as best they can to give validity to their religion by linking it to the religion of the ancients Celts, who seem to be idolized by modern pagans (5). But the idea that Wicca is founded on beliefs that originated in “Ireland, Scotland, and Wales” is offensive. It assumes that there are no meaningful cultural differences between the Welsh, the Scottish, and the Irish. The mythology of one, in Wiccan thinking, can simply be substituted for the mythology of another. The Celts were notorious for infighting, so many Celtic tribes were often at odds with one another, each advocating different beliefs and sometimes completely different Gods. It would be difficult to make a statement about what the Irish uniformly believed at any given time. Let alone, reconciling what the Irish believed with what the Welsh believed, and reconciling those two with the Scots. Though geographically close, the beliefs of different Celtic peoples were not necessarily more similar to one another than they were to other pagan cultures. Oddly, on the very next page… it talks about Chakras. Go fig…
As to the practice of magick (spelled with a K for extra kookiness), do I really need to say it? The best definition of how magick works is this: “Magick is the ability to make changes in the physical world through manipulating the spiritual world. How this is accomplished can be described by many words - Mind over matter, blind faith, will power are but a few - and all give a good description.” (Apparently, magick can alter the physical world but it can’t help you spell correctly. Willpower is a compound word guys!) But the description doesn’t get any clearer than that. There are statements that one needs to believe in a “spiritual world” and harness our spiritual energy. The basic essence of the Rede is restated, and the author of the page points out how “Karmic return works in mysterious, yet undeniable ways”(6). Although karma is a Hindu concept, not a Celtic one.
There seems to be chanting and candles and occasionally odd ingredients involved in most spells. In other words… it’s like a birthday party only sometimes you’re naked and there’s no cake. Well… it’s a lot like my birthday party at least. Only there’s no cake and my cousin Rory isn‘t yelling “Why are you out of beer?”…
C’mon. If were supposed to believe magick works then why were the original witches stomped out in the first place? If you can magickly affect the physical world don’t you think saving yourself from extinction would kinda be near the top of your priority list? We’re discussing a religion that lost out to free wine and crackers. How all powerful were these mages? I don’t see a strong historical argument that persuades me to take “magick” seriously.
The claim is that the Romans terrified everyone so much that they gave in and converted to Christianity out of fear, but that only proves that ancient magick had no real power. If the spells were real then it stands to reason that no one would have needed to be afraid of the Romans because they had magickal protection.
Even if we forgive Wicca for it’s ridiculous hocus pocus, which is an insult to the intelligence of any thinking person, we’re still left with their shaky ideology. Harm none. I stated before that Wicca’s only real rule is pretty much open to interpretation. The best definition of how a Wiccan might interpret the “harm none” credo was given by Patti Wigington from “While there are a few different interpretation of what actually constitutes harm, most Wiccans follow the concept that no harm should intentionally be done to another individual” (7). That really doesn’t define what harm means, it simply explains that however you define harm, you probably shouldn’t do it to others on purpose.
It’s a shortcut, an easy way to getting what one desires without doing the legwork, which shortchanges the people who come by what they have honestly. Doesn’t that constitute harm?
In fact, there isn’t a spell you cast that you can be absolutely certain won’t hurt anyone. Ignorance doesn’t excuse transgression if you are intentionally tinkering with the universe. You have to be somewhat more responsible…
But, fear not. You too can reap the benefits of universal tinkering… for a nominal fee. For the low, low price of $39.99 you can have a direct spell cast on your behalf! The website prompts you to “Chose from areas listed , most common are Money, Retun a Lover, Break em up and Make em love me, Quit Addictions, and Hex Removal and Hexes.” (Wouldn’t at least two of those count as harm? Oh, yes, that spelling error “Retun“ is on the website. It isn‘t mine.) Apparently, that’s just the tip of the ice burg folks! There’s another witch who offers even more spells, like the “make them bald or fat hex” and “TAKE YOUR HUSBANDS OR BOYFRIENDS MONEY”. Call me nutsy, but that sounds a little like harm too (8). Maybe the should change the Rede so that it says, “Harm none, unless you’re making $39.99”.
In the end, Wicca is not a religion about Celts, a Rede, or magick. It’s a religion about feeling good- the theological equivalent of a one night stand. There are no real standards or restrictions on behavior- no bothersome requirements to adhere to. Best of all, it lets you feel special and powerful. It’s good to feel more powerful than the people around you, but it’s GREAT to convince other people to buy into your delusion…and even better to charge them for it.

Works Cited


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