Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Word Witch

Why definition is important.

An interesting thing happened on Youtube. My video on the word Witch caused all sorts of controversy and some Christians saw it as a way to create a wedge between what I was saying and the Pagans’ view or the Gardenarians’, while others perceived it as an attack on their Wiccan ways. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is for this very reason that I go out of my way in the first class of the Cabot tradition to explain what we are and where we come from.

Let us put the etymology of the word aside as even the experts cannot agree fully on the word Witch, or Wicca, Wicce, much less Wiccan and it really no longer matters very much anyway. Some people credit Dr. Gardner for term Wican, but the foundations of what he practiced is a form of Witchcraft to which he added naturism.

To have a meaningful exchange however we should agree to a couple of things. One, that the term Witchcraft is not an umbrella term that covers all those people that do Magick. Secondly Witchcraft has its roots in the Indo European migration of people who became known as the Celts and Anglo Saxons. It may have much older roots than that starting in Egypt and beyond, but to be a Witch, no matter the specific tradition, means you recognize the roots as coming from there in some way. The Shamanistic traditions, Pagans, Neo Pagans, the Voudons all have their own name, we have many things in common, but they are not Witches nor would they want to be.

Scientology is a new religion, until L Ron Hubbard came along there was no such thing. While some may argue that there are a lot of echoes from many philosophies, the core of that federally recognized religion and how they practice it, is historically new. If you speak to Wiccans however it does not take long to realize that much of what they believe has ancient roots. Mind you there is a new generation of people who call themselves Wiccan and are also Vampires, Satanists and all sorts of other things. Let us leave them out of this for now.

Many Wiccans point to the 13 principles of Wiccan belief as their definition of Wicca as a religion. These 13 principles were written and debated over in 1974 and the process, with the resulting document, was a historic, bold and courageous step to try and define for all, the general spiritual truths that many of us share in varying degrees, but it was never intended to be the basis of a new religion or a substitute for the fundamental teachings of all the groups that came forth to write, in committee, the 13 principles. It was as someone on a blog put it, a “position paper” and it was meant to ease the pressure on Witches in North America and because of the broad language, it could easily cover many other groups as well. Each group represented got their bit of language in there and had to compromise on others. The council could not be kept together long because of the many differences inherent between them.

I was there and I lived those times, and let me caution you, those times are not over. Prejudice against ALL non Christians is still here and specifically Witches and you can see it the workplace, in communities and even in the courts where you can lose your children in custody battles for being a Witch. Remember Reverend White and all the others who used the elections as a way to get their messages of hate out there? Witches, Buddhists, Hindus,Satanists and even the Jews were all thrown together. Yoga was attacked and taken out of school activities because it corrupted minds indoctrinating children into Hinduism.

So “Wiccans” are under fire make no mistake. To be fair, pressure on all non Muslims is also present in other parts of the world with deadly consequences. Those not of either faith are essentially being squeezed on both sides by long standing enemies who have been warring with each other for centuries. Hindus and Buddhists have greater numbers than we do which gives them some advantage. We must remember that we are older than both Christianity and Islam and there has never been a Witch war, though we do seem to bicker an awful lot.

So to be a Wiccan is now a legally accepted term. Army Chaplains who are to render aid and comfort on the field of battle were issued the 13 principles for fallen troops and used for Witches and Pagans alike. It was a significant step forward, but it still does not define what one believes or provides for an easy path to follow. When Martin Luther broke from the Catholic church he felt he had good reason, he was hunted down and almost killed, and he went back to his core beliefs which were clearly defined in liturgy and practice.

The Wiccan umbrella is so large, it is akin to saying one is from the Americas or from the continent of Asia. There are so many countries there, it is hard to know to whom you are speaking. I personally find the etymology of words interesting and welcome any opportunity to be educated, but the meaning associated with a word is as much a product of history as it is of the cultural frame in which it is used. Witches are now Wiccans, but I will resist the “Wicca as a religion” banner since I see the religion and practices of many Wiccans as coming from Witchcraft which is an ancient and fully working system and needs no new name. Some Wiccans I speak with, seem drawn to the Pagans more than to Witchraft and I would urge them to delve into those practices fully and call them by their rightful and traditional names, which they all have. There are also the Eclectics which find their path from the many, which is fine as long as it works for them but even they, will be looking for the roots of things.

To those that thought I was attacking Wicca, I am not. I am a firm believer however in fundamentals and Wicca is too broad a term for me to use in actual application. The Cabot Tradition teaches the fundamentals and organizes them into a working system that is not based on belief but on experience. I did not invent a religion here, the things I teach are not mine, they are ancient, the small contribution I have made is to develop a teaching mechanism that gives students a way to learn that is compatible with these busy times while focusing on the core which is Science, philosophy, art and lastly religion. I place religion last because I have grown to dislike what that word means to so many. I see it used as a weapon more often than not, which is very unfortunate.

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