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Still More Coolness

What About Wicca?

Recently someone who is interested in learning about Wicca and Witchcraft asked me some great questions. I spent a bit of time on the answers and thought they might be good to preserve here for further interested parties.

So, without further ado...


Boy, let me see if I can do this justice without being too wordy... If you sign out of LiveJournal and go to http://www.thefirespiral.com, you will find an abbreviated version of my journal that dates back to 1997. Some of these questions are answered there, but I'm going to answer them here too.

Whatever you do, don't stop asking questions. It is the most powerful thing you can do. My wish is for everyone to find a spiritual path that feeds their life in a healthy way... whatever the path may be. If isn't Wicca or Witchcraft, it's no skin off my nose. I'm just glad to help you look.

What drew you to Wicca? How long have you been practicing?

I have been a practicing Witch since about 1995, though I really dabbled here and there for a few years prior to that. My interest in Witchcraft goes back much further than that. Really, I can't remember a time when I wasn't drawn to the archetype of a witch. It influenced my reading, for sure, and I've been reading about "occult" topics since I can remember. Way back in the day, there was a children's series that was a foreshadowing of the Harry Potter books -- they were written by a British author, Jill Murphy, and focused on a very clumsy witch named Mildred who attended Miss Cackle's Academy for Witches. They're still in print and have even been made into a children's tv series, as well as an old movie starring a very young and non-Gothy Fairuza Balk.

Most of my adolescent years were spent in a very small town in rural Arizona. Access to books was limited to the library and book clubs. When I graduated -- literally the next day -- I high-tailed it out of there to San Francisco, where I had family. I lucked into a job at Waldenbooks and ended up with the Occult section. While putting away books one day, I found a book called "The Truth About Witchcraft Today," by Scott Cunningham. I pulled it off the shelf, intrigued by the very non-Witchy looking woman on the cover and took it home to read. I was stunned to find that the practice of Witchcraft was alive and well, and that there was a religion that placed nature in the same divine state I had always perceived it. The rest is history. I spent about five years reading, thinking and shedding the fear and bullshit instilled in me by my experiences with Christianity.

Do you still or have you ever practiced any form of religion (Christianity, Judaism, etc)? If yes, do you feel they can find a way to compliment each other? If no, why not?

Well, I practice a religion now, but I'm assuming you mean a mainstream religion. ::grin::

I spent most of my growing years pursuing one Christian tradition after the other, looking for the right one. My search was self-initiated. Both my parents have a healthy skepticism of the politics and economics of organized religion. In fact, when I came out to my dad, his first wary question was, "Who are you giving money to?" Fortunately, the answer was no one. The issue of money and Witchcraft is another side conversation... maybe a future post.

However, I did not have a bad experience with Christianity. It just wasn't the right one. Often my questions weren't welcomed, or if they were, the answers weren't satisfactory. That does not, however, mean I don't think that Christianity has something to offer -- it does, just not to me.

There are many Witches who successfully combine Witchcraft with more mainstream religions, such as Christianity, Judaism and even Islam. The beauty (and occasionally, the curse) of the Craft is that it is highly individual and adaptable. The main issue with other faiths, I suppose, is how literally you take their holy texts and whether you buy into the concept of One True God. Those are probably the two biggest obstacles. Most Witches I know who combine a mainstream religion with the Craft are very studied in the mainstream religion -- they have read the mystic texts and books not necessarily "approved" by more conservative sects of their respective traditions. By doing this, they are often able to find the common threads that weave together most religions.

You are so open about it (at least on LJ). How/what is the reaction of your family, friends or others?

My family has been very supportive. As I said, they are quite skeptical of organized religion, but wholly open to the concept of an earth-centered spirituality that allows me to develop my own philosophies, my own ethics and my own cosmology -- and doesn't ask me to tithe. My husband's family is largely in the dark about it because that is his choice. Asked directly, I won't lie, so I imagine some day we'll have to cross that bridge.

All of my friends know about my spiritual path. No one has said anything negative to me about it. What they do and say on their own time may be another matter, but I have never felt unsupported. When Jasmine died, no one tried to proselytize, or take advantage of the situation to tell me that my choice of spirituality was in any way responsible. Her service was held at the UU church and was presided over by their Christian-leaning minister. However, the service was quite Pagan, with drums and readings and many, many "blessed be's". Now would probably be a good time to mention that most of my closest friends are also Witches or Pagans. I even have a few who I met when they were Witches who have since converted to Christianity. Since there is mutual love and respect, it's never a problem.

I have had minimal problems in other areas of my life. It's kind of a long story, but suffice it to say that the overall response of people is good. I think it's because I present myself well -- I am educated about my choices, sure of them, and I don't come across like a flake. The few bad experiences I've had have been aberrations and aren't really worth mentioning.

Are you a solitary practitioner or do you have a coven?

Both. I don't think working solitary precludes one from being a member of a coven. I do work with my coven, but I also work alone. I have been coven-less in the past, and prefer to have a group to work with. However, this was an evolution. When I started on this path, I was alone, and I think I did a pretty good job of taking myself to the point where I was really ready for interaction with more experienced Witches. That's my experience though... other people's mileage may vary.

What “paths” are within Wicca?

As many as there are practitioners, really. That is a really difficult question to answer, primarily because most Pagan paths -- of which Wicca is a subset -- are so fiercely individual. There are certainly traditions, but new ones spring up every day, so to answer that question with a concrete number is impossible. There are categories of traditions, but even that is a slippery thing to pin down. For example, there are British Traditional brands of Wicca/Witchcraft, there are feminist brands, pantheon-based brands (i.e. Celtic, Greek, etc.), and so many more. The Witches Voice keeps a section for traditions of the Craft where folks can submit a definition of their particular tradition. There are several there, and it's a good place to start, but it's not exhaustive. It couldn't be.

Is there a difference between Goddess worship & Wicca? What are the similarities/differences? Do the two compliment each other?

It depends on how you define the terms. There are plenty of people who consider themselves Goddess-worshippers who might not consider themselves Wiccan. The term "Wicca" itself is problematic because it means different things to different people. I can talk more about that later, because it would be a major tangent right now. I don't know of any Wiccans who don't include the Goddess in their worship. There are some who call themselves Witches or Pagans, however, who might not worship any particular Goddess. Another component of this question is how people define divinity. There is a huge continuum from people who are essentially monotheists who like to express the idea of divinity dualistically (i.e. a God and Goddess), but who ultimately believe that the divine is one genderless entity. At the other end of the spectrum are those who feel the Gods exist as separate entities, just as you and I are separate, that these Gods are really as the ancients perceived them.

So do they compliment each other? Yes. Is there a difference? Yes, but it's not that simple.

What is the Shadow Self you mentioned in your post right before going to camp? And what was the Thorn & Feri work you mentioned?

The concept of a Shadow Self is largely Jungian in origin (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carl_Jung#The_shadow). It suggests that we are comprised of shadow and light, that both are holy and that to try to separate these parts into "good" and "evil" is dualistic and too simplistic. Christianity has left a legacy on our culture of separating things into black and white, good and evil. I don't think the world is that simple. There are many shades of gray. And many things we are taught to perceive as "bad" or "evil" -- such as death -- are actually integral parts of life. We cannot define light without shadow, and to be whole human beings, we must embrace both parts of our psyche. Does that make sense?

So the work I've been doing with my Shadow is coming to know it and accept it. To integrate it where I can, and change the behaviors that emanate from it where I can. There are several books that give hints of information about this concept: "The Spiral Dance" or "Twelve Wild Swans," both by Starhawk are two I particularly recommend. Both may even be available at your library, depending on where you live.

Shadow work features prominently in the Feri tradition of Witchcraft (http://www.feritradition.org/), a tradition that heavily influences the Reclaiming tradition (http://www.reclaiming.org) that I do a lot of work in. T. Thorn Coyle (http://www.thorncoyle.com) is a prominent teacher in both communities, and a recent author of a fabulous book that I strongly recommend to anyone interested in creating a personal spiritual practice: "Evolutionary Witchcraft".

This is a short question with a long answer... I could go on, but I imagine I may be hitting maximum saturation right about now!

What is Chakra?

Here is one that I can just send you a good link for: http://www.sacredcenters.com/chakras.html For further info, I recommend any of Anodea Judith's work.

How does Tarot work? Does it take a lot of practice?

The tarot is simply a system of cards with images that you learn to interpret. It does take practice, but it's fun. Authors I recommend here: Mary Greer, Rachel Pollack. Also, this very cool website: http://www.learntarot.com

Do you have advice for someone like me who wants to learn more but unsure how/where to go from here?

Read and ask questions. Visit websites -- and do not lose your bullshit-o-meter. Being skeptical is not a bad thing. If something sounds wonky to me, I pay attention to that. I examine it. Am I uncomfortable because it's an issue I need to explore, or am I uncomfortable because it's genuinely stupid? And it's okay to change my mind later, either way. Find good mentors, and when the time is right, and if you decide to actually pursue the path, perhaps seek out community.

Do you know of any other sites or LJ communities that may help?

Honestly, I have gotten so jaded with the internet lately -- there is so much stupid bickering and fundamentalism, that I'm hard-pressed to think of a good place to send you, other than those I've already given. It's hard to find resources that aren't overrun with teenagers using Wicca or Witchcraft as a handy way to rebel, or adults who have never left their D&D teens, other than in chronology.

Still, there is good stuff out there, if you know where to look. Start with what I've given you. If you are brave, enter "wicca" or "witchcraft" into the search engine at LJ (you could do the same here at Diaryland) under interests. Then let the sorting start. As with anything, there is a lot of crap out there that has to be sorted to find the treasures. Several of my friends at LJ are also Witches or Wiccans, so looking at their profiles and what groups they are members of might be a good place to start... and I'm always willing to be a resource.

I'm totally willing to add to this list, so if you have a burning question, leave it in the comments!

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Recent Entries ...
Go Here - Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2006
Short, But Sad Good-bye - Sunday, Oct. 16, 2005
Jasmine's Story ... Our Story - Friday, Sept. 30, 2005
Ache - Thursday, Sept. 29, 2005
Twists & Turns - Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2005

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